What Were the Causes of the Great Recession?: The Mainstream Approach vs the Monetary Interpretation
Published: June 2014
Two ways of thinking about the causation of the Great Recession are contrasted: the ‘mainstream approach’ and the ‘monetary interpretation’. According to the mainstream approach, the Great Recession was due to the potential insolvency of the banking system and the correct antidote was tighter regulation. The paper proposes an alternative ‘monetary interpretation’, arguing that the macroeconomic trajectory of the major G7 economies in the Great Recession is readily understood by means of the monetary theory of the determination of national income. The main cause of the Great Recession is seen as a collapse in the annual growth rate of broad money from double-digit annual rates in the years before mid-2008 to virtually zero in the following three years. Further, the dominant reason for the money growth collapse was the abrupt and comprehensive tightening of bank regulation in late 2008. In particular, the raising of regulatory capital/asset ratios was a shock that intensified the downturn.