March 2018

"Unconventional" Monetary Policy as Conventional Monetary Policy: A Perspective from the U.S. in the 1920s

Mark Carlson and Burcu Duygan-Bump


To implement monetary policy in the 1920s, the Federal Reserve utilized administered interest rates and conducted open market operations in both government securities and private money market securities, sometimes in fairly considerable amounts. We show how the Fed was able to effectively use these tools to influence conditions in money markets, even those in which it was not an active participant. Moreover, our results suggest that the transmission of monetary policy to money markets occurred not just through changing the supply of reserves but importantly through financial market arbitrage and the rebalancing of investor portfolios. The tools used in the 1920s by the Federal Reserve resemble the extraordinary monetary policy tools used by central banks recently and provide further evidence on their effectiveness even in ordinary times.
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Keywords: Monetary policy, administered rates, central banking, money markets, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy


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Last Update: January 09, 2020