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The optimum quantity of money: theory and evidence

  • Casey B. Mulligan
  • Xavier X. Sala-i-Martin
  • Frederic S. Mishkin
  • Jonas D. M. Fisher

In this paper we propose a simple and general model for computing the Ramsey optimal inflation tax, which includes several models from the previous literature as special cases. We show that it cannot be claimed that the Friedman rule is always optimal (or always non-optimal) on theoretical grounds. The Friedman rule is optimal or not, depending on conditions related to the shape of various relevant functions. One contribution of this paper is to relate these conditions to measurable variables such as the interest rate or the consumption elasticity of money demand. We find that it tends to be optimal to tax money when there are economies of scale in the demand for money (the scale elasticity is smaller than one) and/or when money is required for the payment of consumption or wage taxes. We find that it tends to be optimal to tax money more heavily when the interest elasticity of money demand is small. We present empirical evidence on the parameters that determine the optimal inflation tax. Calibrating the model to a variety of empirical studies yields an optimal nominal interest rate of less than 1% per year, although that finding is sensitive to the calibration.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its journal Proceedings.

Volume (Year): (1997)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 687-724

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcpr:y:1997:p:687-724
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  1. Karni, Edi, 1974. "The Value of Time and the Demand for Money," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 6(1), pages 45-64, February.
  2. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Stokey, Nancy L, 1987. "Money and Interest in a Cash-in-Advance Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 491-513, May.
  3. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  4. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Kehoe, Patrick J., 1996. "Optimality of the Friedman rule in economies with distorting taxes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 203-223, April.
  5. King, Robert G., 1988. "Money demand in the United States: A quantitative review," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 169-172, January.
  6. Barro, Robert J. & Gordon, David B., 1983. "Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 101-121.
  7. Casey B. Mulligan, . "The Intertemporal Substitution of Work--What Does the Evidence Say?," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 95-11, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  8. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1996. "Adoption of Financial Technologies: Implications for Money Demand and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 5504, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mroz, Thomas A, 1987. "The Sensitivity of an Empirical Model of Married Women's Hours of Work to Economic and Statistical Assumptions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 765-99, July.
  11. Guidotti, Pablo E. & Vegh, Carlos A., 1993. "The optimal inflation tax when money reduces transactions costs : A reconsideration," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 189-205, April.
  12. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Kimbrough, Kent P., 1986. "The optimum quantity of money rule in the theory of public finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 277-284, November.
  14. Feenstra, Robert C., 1986. "Functional equivalence between liquidity costs and the utility of money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 271-291, March.
  15. Mulligan, Casey B, 1997. "Scale Economies, the Value of Time, and the Demand for Money: Longitudinal Evidence from Firms," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 1061-79, October.
  16. Woodford, Michael, 1990. "The optimum quantity of money," Handbook of Monetary Economics, in: B. M. Friedman & F. H. Hahn (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 20, pages 1067-1152 Elsevier.
  17. Casey B. Mulligan, . "The Demand for Money by Firms: Some Additional Empirical Results," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 97-1, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  18. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-I-Martin, 1992. "U.S. Money Demand: Surprising Cross-Sectional Estimates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 285-343.
  19. Braun, R. Anton, 1994. "How large is the optimal inflation tax?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 201-214, October.
  20. Allan H. Meltzer, 1963. "The Demand for Money: The Evidence from the Time Series," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 71, pages 219.
  21. Karni, Edi, 1973. "The Transactions Demand for Cash: Incorporation of the Value of Time into the Inventory Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(5), pages 1216-25, Sept.-Oct.
  22. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  23. Faig, Miquel, 1988. "Characterization of the optimal tax on money when it functions as a medium of exchange," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 137-148, July.
  24. Lucas, Robert E., 1988. "Money demand in the United States: A quantitative review," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 137-167, January.
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