Staff Report (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Dept.)
Three of the arguments made by Temin (2008) in his review of Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century are demonstrably wrong: that the treatment of the data in the volume is cursory; that the definition of great depressions is too general and, in particular, groups slow growth experiences in Latin America in the 1980s with far more severe great depressions in Europe in the 1930s; and that the book is an advertisement for the real business cycle methodology. Without these three arguments — which are the results of obvious conceptual and arithmetical errors, including copying the wrong column of data from a source — his review says little more than that he does not think it appropriate to apply our dynamic general equilibrium methodology to the study of great depressions, and he does not like the conclusion that we draw: that a successful model of a great depression needs to be able to account for the effects of government policy on productivity.
In 2008, Peter Temin wrote a review of the book that appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature. This staff report and accompanying data file are in response to the review.
Citation for review: Temin, Peter. 2008. "Real Business Cycle Views of the Great Depression and Recent Events: A Review of Timothy J. Kehoe and Edward C. Prescott's Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century." Journal of Economic Literature, 46 (3): 669-84. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.46.3.669
We analyze the Italian economy in the interwar years. In Italy, as in many other countries, the years immmediately after 1929 were characterized by a major slowdown in economic activity as non farm output declined almost 12. We argue that the slowdown cannot be explained solely by productivity shocks and that other factors must have contributed to the depth and duration of the the 1929 crisis. We present a model in which trade restrictions together with wage rigidities produce a slowdown in economic activity that is consistent with the one observed in the data. The model is also consistent with evidence from sectorial disaggregated data. Our model predicts that trade restrictions can account for about 3/4 of the observed slowdown while wage rigidity (monetary shocks) can account for the remaining fourth.
Working paper (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Dept.)
I consider two theories of the determination of political institutions. One of these theories stresses effects of changes in the balance of military power between the ruler and subjects on the distribution of property rights which the political system enforces. The other theory emphasizes the effect of changing informational constraints which require institutional changes to be made in order to maintain efficiency. I examine how each of these theories would apply to explaining the development of parliamentary government in thirteenth-century England. My general conclusion is that both theories are required to understand fully the process by which liberal political institutions emerge.
There are two striking aspects of the recovery from the Great Depression in the United States: the recovery was very weak and real wages in several sectors rose significantly above trend. These data contrast sharply with neoclassical theory, which predicts a strong recovery with low real wages. We evaluate whether New Deal cartelization policies designed to limit competition among firms and increase labor bargaining power can account for the persistence of the Depression. We develop a model of the intraindustry bargaining process between labor and firms that occurred with these policies, and embed that model within a multi-sector dynamic general equilibrium model. We find that New Deal cartelization policies are an important factor in accounting for the post-1933 Depression. We also find that the key depressing element of New Deal policies was not collusion per se, but rather the link between paying high wages and collusion.