A Drop in the Money Supply Was Not the Cause of the Great Depression

by Frank Shostak

In his writings, Milton Friedman blamed central bank policies for causing the Great Depression. According to Friedman, the Federal Reserve failed to pump enough reserves into the banking system to prevent a collapse in the money stock.1 The adjusted money supply (AMS), which stood at $26.6 billion in March 1930, had fallen to $20.5 billion by April 1933—a decline of 22.9 percent.

According to Friedman, as a result of the collapse in the money stock, economic activity followed suit. Thus, by July 1932 year-on-year industrial production had fallen by over 31 percent (see chart). Also, year-on-year the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had plunged. By October 1932 the CPI was down 10.7 percent (see chart).

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