Milton Friedman Myth of Great Depression

Milton Friedman’s perspective on the Great Depression is significant. He, along with Anna Schwartz, co-authored “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960,” which challenged the prevailing narrative about the event’s causes. Here are the key points of Friedman’s “myth”:

Central Role of the Federal Reserve:

Friedman argues that the Federal Reserve’s actions were the primary cause of the Great Depression. He asserts that the Fed’s contraction of the money supply during the early 1930s, triggered by bank failures and a lack of understanding of monetary policy, severely hampered economic activity, leading to a prolonged crisis of deflation and unemployment.

Critique of Government Intervention:

Friedman argues that the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration, aimed at stimulating the economy through government spending and regulation, exacerbated the Depression by delaying recovery. He believed these interventions hindered market adjustments and caused further distortions in the economic system.

Emphasis on Monetary Policy: Friedman’s analysis shifted the focus of economic policy from fiscal measures to monetary policy. He advocated for a stable and predictable growth of the money supply as a key tool for preventing economic instability and promoting long-term growth.

Impact and Debate:

Friedman’s perspective remains influential but also faces several criticisms. Some economists argue that his emphasis on monetary policy overlooks other contributing factors to the Depression, such as structural deficiencies in the financial system and the stock market crash. Others point to limitations in his methodology and historical research.

Overall, Friedman’s “myth” of the Great Depression challenged the dominant narrative and sparked a crucial debate about the role of government and monetary policy in managing economic cycles. Although not universally accepted, his ideas continue to shape economic thinking and policy discussions.

Whether you agree with Friedman’s perspective or not, it’s important to consider the context and evidence he presented, as well as the ongoing debate among economists about the complex causes and consequences of the Great Depression.

Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:

  • A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz
  • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
  • “Myths That Conceal Reality” by Milton Friedman
  • The Great Depression and the Friedman-Schwartz hypothesis by the European Central Bank

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