Golden Handcuffs

Since revisiting the Great Depression, its causes and consequences, seems to be in vogue again, it’s only fitting that David Glasner reviews what we learned about the gold standard and “the worst economic catastrophe since the Black Death of the 14th century.” It’s an old lesson, or at least it should be. But relearning lessons is what macroeconomics is all about, or so it seems.

Without further ado, David Glasner…

Not only did Hayek make the wrong call about the gold standard, he actually defended the insane French policy of gold accumulation in his lament for the gold standard after Britain wisely disregarded his advice and left the gold standard in 1931…

So what do we learn from this depressing tale? Hawtrey and Cassel did everything right. They identified the danger to the world economy a decade in advance. They specified exactly the correct policy for avoiding the danger. Their policy was a huge success for about nine years until the Americans and the French between them drove the world economy into the Great Depression, just as Hawtrey and Cassel warned would happen if the monetary demand for gold was not held in check. Within a year and a half, both Hawtrey and Cassel concluded that recovery was no longer possible under the gold standard. And as countries, one by one, abandoned the gold standard, they began to recover just as Hawtrey and Cassel predicted. So one would have thought that Hawtrey and Cassel would have been acclaimed and celebrated far and wide as the most insightful, the most farsighted, the wisest, economists in the world. Yep, that’s what one would have thought. Did it happen? Not a chance. Instead, it was Keynes who was credited with figuring out how to end the Great Depression, even though there was almost nothing in the General Theory about the gold standard and a 30% deflation as the cause of the Great Depression, despite his having vilified Churchill in 1925 for rejoining the gold standard at the prewar parity when that decision was expected to cause a mere 10% deflation.

2 thoughts on “Golden Handcuffs

  1. JP

    Quite right. I need to brush up on my Old Norse entymology–no, no, I mean etymology. There I go again!&%$#@ In any case, out with adieu, in with ado. Thanks.

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