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Panel discussion I: what have we learned since October 1979?

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Panel Discussion I: What Have We Learned Since October 1979? FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF ST. LOUIS REVIEW MARCH/APRIL, PART 2 2005 277 Panel Discussion I Moderation.” Recessions have become less fre- quent and milder, and quarter-to-quarter volatility in output and employment has declined signifi- cantly as well. The sources of the Great Moderation remain somewhat controversial, but, as I have argued elsewhere, there is evidence for the view that improved control of inflation has contributed in important measure to this welcome change in the economy (Bernanke, 2004). Paul Volcker and his colleagues on the Federal Open Market Com- mittee deserve enormous credit both for recogniz- ing the crucial importance of achieving low and stable inflation and for the courage and persever- ance with which they tackled America’s critical inflation problem. I could say much more about Volcker’s achievement and its lasting benefits, but I am sure that many other speakers will cover that ground. Instead, in my remaining time, I will focus on some lessons that economists have drawn from the Volcker regime regarding the importance of credibility in central banking and how that credi- bility can be obtained. As usual, the views I will express are my own and are not necessarily shared by my colleagues in the Federal Reserve System. Volcker could not have accomplished what he did, of course, had he not been appointed to the chairmanship by President Jimmy Carter. In retrospect, however, Carter’s appointment decision seems at least a bit incongruous. Why would the President appoint as head of the central bank an individual whose economic views and policy goals (not to mention personal style) seemed, at least on the surface, quite different from his own? However, not long into Volcker’s term, a staff economist at the Board of Governors produced a paper that explained why Carter’s decision may in What Have We Learned Since October 1979? Ben S. Bernanke T he question asked of this panel is,“What have we

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