21 Jan 2010

Lessons for Europe from the 1930s

Paul De Grauwe

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Present-day central banks did not repeat the mistakes of the 1930s by tightening money in the face of a banking crisis, or by desperately trying to balance their books when the economy crashed. Yet there is one area of policy-making where authorities may not have learned the lessons of history, and are in the process of repeating the same mistakes, argues Paul De Grauwe, Senior Research Fellow at CEPS. Ultimately a central bank has to make choices. The Federal Reserve and the Bank of England chose massive programmes of liquidity creation, attaching a low weight to the possible inflationary consequences of their actions. The ECB has been more conservative in its liquidity creating programmes; attaching a low weight to the consequences for the exchange rate and to the chances of a quick recovery. Only time will tell us which of these choices was right.