Economics Working Paper 19104
Abstract: Karl Brunner and Allan Meltzer were pioneer monetarists whose work in the 1960s and 1970s challenged the prevailing Keynesian orthodoxy. A major part of their work was a critique of the Federal Reserve System’s monetary policy strategy from the 50s leading to the Great inflation. This paper explores the nexus between Brunner and Meltzer’s earlier work in a report prepared for the US congress in 1964 on the System’s discretionary counter cyclical policy in its first fifty years of existence, and Allan Meltzer’s monumental two volume A History of the Federal Reserve (2003, 2009). Many of the themes in the early report reappeared in A History. A key theme in the 1964 monograph was a critique of the Fed’s use of the Net Free Reserves doctrine which had evolved in the 1950s from the earlier Burgess Rieffler Strong doctrine which guided Fed policy in the 1920s and 1930s. which the authors argued explained the Fed’s policy mistakes leading to the Great Contraction. They posit the case that their monetarist approach based on the money supply, monetary base and money multiplier could have greatly improved the Fed’s performance from the 1920s to the 1960s.The 1964 monograph was a key building block for their later work in monetary theory and policy including their critique of Keynes, the importance of policy uncertainty and the case for a monetary base rule.