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What if Alexander Hamilton had been Argentinean? A comparison of the early monetary experiences of Argentina and the United States

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  • Bordo, Michael D.
  • Vegh, Carlos A.

Abstract

The contrast between the early nineteenth century Argentinean experience of high inflation and the American experience of low inflation is interpreted in terms of a dynamic monetary model of optimal taxation. It is argued that the two countries' experiences diverged because of the different constraints they faced in financing wartime government expenditures. In the presence of frequent wars, ever-tightening access to foreign capital, and an inadequate tax base, Argentina's use of the inflation tax may be viewed as an optimal solution to its wartime problems. By contrast, with the exception of the Revolutionary War, the absence of such constraints in the United States required full-tax smoothing, with only a temporary use of the inflation tax during wartime. Such policies were embodied in Alexander Hamilton's fiscal package of 1790, which allowed the United States to bond-finance most subsequent wartime expenditures.
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  • Bordo, Michael D. & Vegh, Carlos A., 2002. "What if Alexander Hamilton had been Argentinean? A comparison of the early monetary experiences of Argentina and the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 459-494, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:49:y:2002:i:3:p:459-494
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    Cited by:

    1. Irigoin, Alejandra, 2016. "Representation Without Taxation, Taxation Without Consent: The Legacy Of Spanish Colonialism In America," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(02), pages 169-208, September.
    2. Handler, Heinz, 2013. "The eurozone: piecemeal approach to an optimum currency area," MPRA Paper 67183, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Taylor, Alan M., 2003. "Transferring Wealth and Power from the Old to the New World: Monetary and Fiscal Institutions in the 17th through the 19th Centuries: by Michael D. Bordo and Roberto Cortes-Conde, Cambridge University," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 253-259, October.
    4. Huberto M. Ennis, 2006. "The problem of small change in early Argentina," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 93-111.
    5. Huberto M. Ennis, 2003. "Shortages of small change in early Argentina," Working Paper 03-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    6. della Paolera, Gerardo & Taylor, Alan M., 2013. "Sovereign debt in Latin America, 1820-1913," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(02), pages 173-217, September.
    7. Benjamin Eden, 2007. "The Friedman Rule in an Overlapping Generations Model: Social Security in Reverse," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0717, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    8. Joshua Aizenman, 2013. "The Eurozone Crisis: Muddling through on the Way to a More Perfect Euro Union?," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-13, October.
    9. Matias Vernengo, 2005. "Economics Ideas and Institutions in Historical Perspective: Cairú and Hamilton on Trade and Finance," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2005_08, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
    10. Bordo, Michael D., 2012. "Could the United States have had a better central bank? An historical counterfactual speculation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 597-607.
    11. Douglas A. Irwin, 2010. "Revenue or Reciprocity? Founding Feuds over Early U.S. Trade Policy," NBER Chapters,in: Founding Choices: American Economic Policy in the 1790s, pages 89-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Osvaldo Meloni & Ana María Cerro, 2005. "Crises & Crashes: Argentina 1885 – 2003," Economic History 0505001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Rauchway, Eric, 2006. "The Role of Federalism in Developing the US during Nineteenth-century Globalization," WIDER Working Paper Series 072, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    14. Meissner, Christopher M., 2005. "A new world order: explaining the international diffusion of the gold standard, 1870-1913," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 385-406, July.
    15. Maurer, Noel & Gomberg, Andrei, 2004. "When the State is Untrustworthy: Public Finance and Private Banking in Porfirian Mexico," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(04), pages 1087-1107, December.
    16. Rockoff, Hugh & White, Eugene N., 2012. "Monetary Regimes and Policy on a Global Scale: The Oeuvre of Michael D. Bordo," MPRA Paper 49672, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2013.
    17. Lazaretou, Sophia, 2005. "The drachma, foreign creditors, and the international monetary system: tales of a currency during the 19th and the early 20th centuries," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 202-236, April.
    18. Talvi, Ernesto & Vegh, Carlos A., 2005. "Tax base variability and procyclical fiscal policy in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 156-190, October.
    19. Sophia Lazaretou, 2004. "The Drachma, Foreign Creditors and the International Monetary System: Tales of a Currency during the 19th and the Early 20th Century," Working Papers 16, Bank of Greece.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • N16 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Latin America; Caribbean

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