Monetary and fiscal policy in interwar Britain

David Ronicle

Macroeconomic outcomes in Britain’s interwar years were terrible – they featured two of modern Britain’s worst recessions, unemployment twice peaked above 20% and was rarely below 10% and there were two periods of chronic deflation. Policy, meanwhile, was pulled in multiple directions by multiple objectives – employment, price and financial stability and debt sustainability. These challenges gave birth to modern macroeconomics, inspiring the work of John Maynard Keynes. In a new working paper, I apply modern empirical techniques to look at the period with fresh eyes. I find that monetary and fiscal policy played a central role in macroeconomic developments – and that outcomes could have been better had policymakers been less wedded to the traditional policy consensus, and especially the Gold Standard.

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