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Working Paper No. 763 | May 2013

The Problem of Excess Reserves, Then and Now

This working paper looks at excess reserves in historical context and analyzes whether they constitute a monetary policy problem for the Federal Reserve System (the “Fed”) or a potentially inflationary problem for the rest of us. Generally, this analysis shows that both absolute and relative sizes of excess reserves are a big problem for the Fed as well as the general public be-cause of their inflationary potential. However, like all contingencies, the timing and extent of the damage that reserve-driven inflation might cause are uncertain. It is even possible today to find articles in both scholarly circles and the popular press arguing either that the inflationary blow-off might never happen or that an increasing tendency toward prolonged deflation is the more probable outcome.

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