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Short waves in Hungary, 1923 and 1946: Persistence, chaos, and (lack of) control


  • Hartwell, Christopher A.


Monetary policies follow a complex and chaotic process, one that is enhanced when monetary growth is taken to the extreme, as in hyperinflation. While we have a basic understanding of the complex dynamics of hyperinflation, a less-explored phenomenon accompanying hyperinflationary episodes is the effect that they have on institutional development. Building on recent advances in economic history examining monetary policy and institutions, this analysis uses more explicit recourse to complexity theory and in particular complex adaptive systems to examine two separate hyperinflationary episodes in Hungary, 1923 and 1946. Delving into the institutional and cultural roots of the inflationary policies of the Hungarian government and detailing the institutional effects which succeeded hyperinflation, this paper shows that the twin experiences of Hungary were both chaotic and created a chaotic and complex aftermath, the results of which are still being felt. Indeed, Hungary's 1923 and especially its 1946 hyperinflation shows that some economic chaos cannot be restrained by political institutions and in fact the institutions themselves were changed. When staring into the abyss, Hungary also found that the abyss stared back.

Suggested Citation

  • Hartwell, Christopher A., 2019. "Short waves in Hungary, 1923 and 1946: Persistence, chaos, and (lack of) control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 532-550.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:163:y:2019:i:c:p:532-550
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.05.003

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    More about this item


    Hyperinflation; Complex adaptive systems; Chaos; Monetary policy; Hungary;

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Modern Monetary Theory;


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