CAMBRIDGE – This year marks the 100th anniversaries of two distinct institutional innovations in American economic policy: the introduction of the federal income tax and the establishment of the Federal Reserve. They are worth commemorating, if only because we are at risk of forgetting what we have learned since then.
Initially, neither the income tax nor the Fed was associated with the explicit concepts of fiscal and monetary policy. Indeed, it wasn’t until after the experience of the 1930’s that they came to be viewed as potential instruments for macroeconomic management. John Maynard Keynes pointed out the advantages of fiscal stimulus in circumstances like the Great Depression. Milton Friedman blamed the Depression on the Fed for allowing the money supply to fall.