The worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s was a watershed for both economic thought and economic policymaking. It led to the belief that market economies are inherently unstable and to the revolutionary work of John Maynard Keynes. Its impact on popular economic wisdom is still apparent today. Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century, which uses a common framework to study sixteen depressions from the interwar period in Europe and America, as well as from more recent times in Japan and Latin America, challenges the Keynesian theory of depressions. It develops and uses a methodology for studying depressions that relies on growth accounting and the general equilibrium growth model. Different chapters in this book analyze the depressions in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States in the 1930s, the depressions in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico in the 1980s, and recent depressions in Argentina, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Besides the editors themselves, the contributors are Pedro Amaral, Paul Beaudry, Raphael Bergoeing, Mirta Bugarin, Harold Cole, Juan Carlos Conesa, Mario Crucini, Roberto Ellery, Victor Gomes, Jonas Fisher, Fumio Hayashi, Andreas Hornstein, James Kahn, Patrick Kehoe, Finn Kydland, James MacGee, Lee Ohanian, Fabrizio Perri, Franck Portier, Vincenzo Quadrini, Kim Ruhl, Raimundo Soto, Arilton Teixeira, and Carlos Zarazaga.
The book has a web site, greatdepressionsbook.com, that contains files with all of the data used in each study and computer programs for performing numerical experiments with dynamic general equilibrium models.
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Timothy J. Kehoe: Tim Kehoe has been an advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 2000. A professor at the University of Minnesota since 1987, Tim is currently Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Economics. His research and teaching focus on the theory and application of general equilibrium models.
Edward C. Prescott: Edward Prescott is a senior monetary advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and has been affiliated with the Bank since 1981. He also holds the W. P. Carey Chair of Economics at Arizona State University. In 2004 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, jointly with Finn Kydland, for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics, notably the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.Review:
Pete Klenow, Stanford University: Macroeconomics strives to explain business cycles and long run economic growth. The major movements in between--including Great Depressions, not just in the 1930s U.S. but in other times and places--deserve just as much attention. Fortunately, this book makes major strides in our understanding of these wrenching episodes using cutting edge dynamic tools.
Robert E. Lucas, Jr., University of Chicago: The authors in this exciting collection examine depressions--prolonged episodes of below-trend production--in 14 countries, using a common, neoclassical framework. The programs and compatible data sets used in these studies are made available on-line. This book will be the starting point for future investigations of the economic upheavals of the last century.
Thomas J. Sargent, New York University: Studying this book is an excellent way to learn about how to apply and adapt the optimal growth model to understand the most disturbing of macroeconomic events of the twentieth century, great depressions. The book bristles with intriguing stories, creative ways of expressing them in terms of dynamic equilibrium models, and ambitious attempts to compare them with data.
Nancy L. Stokey, University of Chicago: Great Depressions--those that occurred in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 1930s and similar episodes in Latin America more recently--are among the most important economic events of the twentieth century. They are also among the least understood. This volume offers a big step forward in our understanding of how such episodes start and of the factors that can turn a potentially short and mild recession into a deep and prolonged depression. Collectively, the papers here bring out both the similarities and differences among these episodes. It is an invaluable resource for macroeconomists from every intellectual school and of every political persuasion.
Michael Woodford, Columbia University: The Great Depression of the 1930s has been a powerful stimulus to the development of macroeconomic theory for more than 70 years. This iconoclastic volume offers yet another view of those dramatic events, showing how neoclassical theory can be applied not only to the Great Depression in the U.S., but to the comparative study of prolonged slumps in economic activity, including the experiences of other countries in the 1930s and more recent case studies from Japan and Latin America. While it is unlikely to provide the last word on any of these complex events, the book is rich with provocative suggestions that will challenge many conventional views. Perhaps as importantly, this book brings neoclassical macro theory to life, showing how it can be used as a framework for interpreting concrete events. It belongs on the bookshelf of every student of macroeconomic theory and of economic policy. -----
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