The Gold-Exchange Standard and the Great Depression
50 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2007 Last revised: 3 Jan 2022
Date Written: March 1987
A number of explanations for the severity of the Great Depression focus on the malfunctioning of the international monetary system. One such explanation emphasizes the deflationary monetary consequences of the liquidation of foreign-exchange reserves following competitive devaluations by Great Britain and her trading partners. Another emphasizes instead the international monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and the Rank of France. This paper analyzes both the exceptional behavior of the U.S. and France and the shift out of foreign exchange after 1930. While both Franco-American gold policies and systemic weaknesses of the international monetary system emerge as important factors in explaining the international distribution of reserves, the first of these factors turns out to play the more important role in the monetary stringency associated with the Great Depression.
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