Keynes on the Sequencing of Economic Policy: Recovery and Reform in 1933

Produced by: 
National Bureau of Economic Research
Available from: 
March 2018
Paper author(s): 
Sebastian Edwards
Topic: 
Politics and Economy
Year: 
2018

On December 31 1933, The New York Times published an open letter from John Maynard Keynes to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In it Keynes encouraged FDR to expand public works through government borrowing. He also criticized FDR’s exchange rate policy, and argued that there was a need for lower long-term interest rates. But perhaps the most interesting feature of this letter is that Keynes made comments on the sequencing and speed of economic policies. He argued that “recovery” policies should precede “reform” measures. In this paper I analyze this particular aspect of the open letter, and I argue that for Keynes exchange rate stability was a key component of what he considered to be the appropriate order of policy. I also provide a comparison between Keynes’s views on sequencing and those developed in the 1980s and 1990s.

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