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The Influence of Irving Fisher on Milton Friedman’s Monetary Economics

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  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Hugh Rockoff

Abstract

This paper examines the influence of Irving Fisher’s writings on Milton Friedman’s work in monetary economics. We focus first on Fisher’s influences in monetary theory (the quantity theory of money, the Fisher effect, Gibson’s Paradox, the monetary theory of business cycles, and the Phillips Curve, and empirics, e.g. distributed lags.). Then we discuss Fisher and Friedman's views on monetary policy and various schemes for monetary reform (the k% rule, freezing the monetary base, the compensated dollar, a mandate for price stability, 100% reserve money, and stamped money.) Assessing the influence of an earlier economist's writings on that of later scholars is a challenge. As a science progresses the views of its earlier pioneers are absorbed in the weltanschauung. Fisher's Purchasing Power of Money as well as the work of Pigou and Marshall were the basic building blocks for later students of monetary economics. Thus, the Chicago School of the 1930s absorbed Fisher's approach, and Friedman learned from them. However, in some salient aspects of Friedman's work we can clearly detect a major direct influence of Fisher's writings on Friedman's. Thus, for example with the buildup of inflation in the 1960s Friedman adopted the Fisher effect and Fisher's empirical approach to inflationary expectations into his analysis. Thus, Fisher's influence on Friedman was both indirect through the Chicago School and direct. Regardless of the weight attached to the two influences, Fisher' impact on Friedman was profound.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17267.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17267

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  1. Dimand, Robert W., 2000. "Irving Fisher and the Quantity Theory of Money: The Last Phase," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(03), pages 329-348, September.
  2. Henry C. Simons, 1945. "The Beveridge Program: An Unsympathetic Interpretation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53, pages 212.
  3. Robert W. Dimand & John Geanakoplos, 2005. "Celebrating Irving Fisher," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(1), pages 3-18, 01.
  4. Dimand, Robert W, 2003. " Irving Fisher on the International Transmission of Booms and Depressions through Monetary Standards," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 35(1), pages 49-59, February.
  5. Richard C.K. Burdekin & Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2011. "Irving Fisher and Price-Level Targeting in Austria: Was Silver the Answer?," NBER Working Papers 17123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279.
  7. Laidler, David, 1993. "Hawtrey, Harvard, and the Origins of the Chicago Tradition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 1068-1103, December.
  8. Patinkin, Don, 1969. "The Chicago Tradition, the Quantity Theory, and Friedman," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 46-70, February.
  9. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1952. "The Expected-Utility Hypothesis and the Measurability of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 463.
  10. Robert W. Dimand, 1999. "Irving Fisher and the Fisher Relation: Setting the Record Straight," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(3), pages 744-750, May.
  11. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1982. "Monetary Trends in the United States and United Kingdom: Their Relation to Income, Prices, and Interest Rates, 1867-1975," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie82-2, October.
  12. Cargill, Thomas F, 1992. "Irving Fisher Comments on Benjamin Strong and the Federal Reserve in the 1930s," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1273-77, December.
  13. Don Patinkin, 1993. "Irving Fisher and his compensated dollar plan," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Sum, pages 1-34.
  14. Wicksell, Knut, 1907. "The Influence of the Rate of Interest on Prices," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 17, pages 213-220.
  15. Milton Friedman & Anna Jacobson Schwartz, 1970. "Monetary Statistics of the United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie70-1, October.
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