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Money, real interest rates, and output: a reinterpretation of postwar U.S. data

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  • Robert B. Litterman
  • Laurence M. Weiss

Abstract

The claim that bad money drives out good is one of the oldest and most cited in economics. Economists refer to this claim as Gresham’s law. Yet despite its seemingly universal acceptance, this claim does not warrant its status as a law. We find it has no convincing explanations and many overlooked exceptions. We propose an alternative hypothesis based on the costs of using a medium of exchange at a nonpar price: small-denomination currency undervalued at the mint tends to disappear from circulation while large-denomination currency usually circulates at premium. Examining a variety of historical episodes when market and legal prices were different, we find our “law” can explain history much better than Gresham’s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 89.

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Date of creation: 1984
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:89

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  1. Fama, Eugene F, 1975. "Short-Term Interest Rates as Predictors of Inflation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 269-82, June.
  2. Barro, Robert J, 1980. "A Capital Market in an Equilibrium Business Cycle Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(6), pages 1393-1417, September.
  3. Barro, Robert J, 1977. "Unanticipated Money Growth and Unemployment in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 101-15, March.
  4. Nelson, Charles R & Schwert, G William, 1977. "Short-Term Interest Rates as Predictors of Inflation: On Testing the Hypothesis That the Real Rate of Interest is Constant," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 478-86, June.
  5. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
  6. Thomas J. Sargent, 1978. "Estimation of dynamic labor demand schedules under rational expectations," Staff Report 27, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Garbade, Kenneth & Wachtel, Paul, 1978. "Time variation in the relationship between inflation and interest rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 755-765, November.
  8. S. Grossman & L. Weiss, . "Heterogeneous Information and the Theory of the Business Cycle," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 16-80, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  9. Barro, Robert J., 1976. "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, January.
  10. Sims, Christopher A, 1972. "Money, Income, and Causality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 540-52, September.
  11. Fama, Eugene F. & Gibbons, Michael R., 1982. "Inflation, real returns and capital investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 297-323.
  12. Robert J. Shiller, 1980. "Can the Fed Control Real Interest Rates?," NBER Chapters, in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 117-167 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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