THE late Rudi Dornbusch, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, once remarked: “None of the post-war expansions died of old age. They were all murdered by the Fed.” Every recession since 1945, with the exception of the one in 2001, was preceded by a sharp rise in inflation that forced the central bank to raise interest rates. But today's Federal Reserve is no serial killer. It seems keener on blood transfusions than on bloodletting.
When the Fed cut its discount rate on August 17th, it admitted for the first time that the credit crunch could hurt the economy. The markets are betting it will soon cut its main federal funds rate. Economists are arguing vigorously about how much damage falling house prices and the subprime mortgage crisis will do. But there is one question that is rarely asked: even if a downturn is in the offing, should the Fed try to prevent it?
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Posted August 29, 2007 at 9:14 am
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