The U.S. recession of 2007–09 is unique in the post–World War II experience in the broad company it kept. Activity contracted around the world, with the advanced economies of the North experiencing declines in spending more typical of the developing economies of the South for the first time since the 1930s. This paper examines the role of policy in fostering recovery in that earlier decade. With nominal short-term interest rates already near zero, monetary policy in most countries took the unconventional step of delinking currencies from the gold standard. However, analysis of a sample that includes developing countries shows that this was not as universally effective as often claimed, perhaps because the exit from gold was uncoordinated in time, scale, and scope and, in many countries, failed to bring about a substantial depreciation against the dollar. Fiscal policy was also active—most countries sharply increased government spending—but was prone to reversals that may have undermined confidence. Countries that more consistently kept spending high tended to recover more quickly.


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pp. 251-272
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