Was Greenspan's Monetary Policy Too Loose?
By David Henderson
We are not arguing that Greenspan’s policies were perfect. Nor should anything that follows be construed as a defense of central banking or of the Federal Reserve. Particularly alarming is the way the lender-of-last-resort function has been expanding the moral-hazard safety net and mispricing risk, a trend to which Greenspan no doubt contributed. Our preferred ideal would combine abolition of the Fed and unregulated free banking.
Nonetheless, Alan Greenspan stands out as the most competent–and arguably the only competent–helmsman of United States monetary policy since the creation of the Federal Reserve System. As Milton Friedman observed upon Greenspan’s retirement, “For the first 70 years after it opened in 1914, the Fed did far more harm than good, presiding over inflation in two World Wars, converting a moderate recession into the great depression, and then in 1970s, producing the most serious peacetime inflation in our nation’s history.”
By contrast, Greenspan’s “performance has indeed been remarkable.”
Greenspan not only oversaw relatively low and stable inflation, but also ushered in a striking decline in the volatility of real gross domestic product. Although defenders of macroeconomic intervention often suggest that government policies after World War II dampened business cycles, the truly significant change should be dated at 1987, the year Greenspan assumed office.
From David R. Henderson and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, “Greenspan’s Monetary Policy in Retrospect.”