Department of Economics
University of Delaware
Working Paper #2007-10
The Political Economy of Wage and Price Controls: Evidence from the Nixon Tapes
Burton A. Abrams and James L. Butkiewicz
On August 15, 1971, Richard Nixon imposed the first and only peacetime wage and price controls in U.S. history. The Nixon tapes, personal tape recordings made during the presidency of Richard Nixon, are now available to the public and provide a unique body of evidence to investigate the motivations for Nixon’s macroeconomic policies. We have uncovered and report in this paper evidence that Nixon manipulated both monetary and fiscal policies to create a political business cycle that helped secure his reelection victory in 1972. Nixon was very knowledgeable about economic matters and understood the risks to the economy of his macroeconomic policy actions and the imposition of wage and price controls, but chose to tradeoff longer-term economic costs to the economy for his own short-term political gain.
JEL Codes: E6; E3; E58
Key Words: Wage and Price Controls; Political Business Cycle; Macroeconomic Policy