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Pulling up the Tarnished Anchor: The End of Silver as a Global Unit of Account

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  • Ricardo T. Fernholz
  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Marc Weidenmier

Abstract

We use the demise of silver-based standards in the 19th century to explore price dynamics when a commodity-based money ceases to function as a global unit of account. We develop a general equilibrium model of the global economy with gold and silver money. Calibration of the model shows that silver ceased functioning as a global price anchor in the mid-1890s - the price of silver is positively correlated with agricultural commodities through the mid-1890s, but not thereafter. In contrast to Fisher (1911) and Friedman (1990), both of whom predict greater price stability under bimetallism, our model suggests that a global bimetallic system, in which the gold price of silver uctuates, has higher price volatility than a global monometallic system. We confirm this result using agricultural commodity price data for 1870-1913.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo T. Fernholz & Kris James Mitchener & Marc Weidenmier, 2017. "Pulling up the Tarnished Anchor: The End of Silver as a Global Unit of Account," CESifo Working Paper Series 6436, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6436
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    Cited by:

    1. Ma, Debin & Zhao, Liuyan, 2019. "A Silver Transformation: Chinese Monetary Integration in Times of Political Disintegration during 1898-1933," CEPR Discussion Papers 13501, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Debin Ma & Liuyan Zhao, 2020. "A silver transformation: Chinese monetary integration in times of political disintegration, 1898–1933," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 73(2), pages 513-539, May.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    bimetallism; classical gold standard; silver; unit of account; fixed exchange rates;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative

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