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Money, real interest rates, and output: a reinterpretation of postwar U.S. data

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  • Robert B. Litterman
  • Laurence M. Weiss

Abstract

The claim that bad money drives out good is one of the oldest and most cited in economics. Economists refer to this claim as Gresham’s law. Yet despite its seemingly universal acceptance, this claim does not warrant its status as a law. We find it has no convincing explanations and many overlooked exceptions. We propose an alternative hypothesis based on the costs of using a medium of exchange at a nonpar price: small-denomination currency undervalued at the mint tends to disappear from circulation while large-denomination currency usually circulates at premium. Examining a variety of historical episodes when market and legal prices were different, we find our “law” can explain history much better than Gresham’s.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert B. Litterman & Laurence M. Weiss, 1984. "Money, real interest rates, and output: a reinterpretation of postwar U.S. data," Staff Report 89, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:89
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. Shiller, 1980. "Can the Fed Control Real Interest Rates?," NBER Chapters,in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 117-167 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    11. Nelson, Charles R & Schwert, G William, 1977. "Short-Term Interest Rates as Predictors of Inflation: On Testing the Hypothesis That the Real Rate of Interest is Constant," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 478-486, June.
    12. Grossman, Sanford J & Weiss, Laurence, 1982. "Heterogeneous Information and the Theory of the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 699-727, August.
    13. Sims, Christopher A, 1972. "Money, Income, and Causality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 540-552, September.
    14. Barro, Robert J., 1976. "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, January.
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