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Gold, Fiat Money, and Price Stability


  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Robert D. Dittmar
  • William T. Gavin


Which monetary regime is associated with the most stable price level? A commodity money regime such as the classical gold standard has long been associated with long-run price stability. But critics of the day argued that the regime was associated with too much short-run price variability and argued for reforms that look much like modern versions of price-level targeting. In this paper, we develop a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model that we use to examine price dynamics under four alternative regimes. They are the gold standard, Irving Fisher's compensated dollar proposal, and two regimes with paper money in which the central bank uses an interest rate rule to run monetary policy. In the first, the central bank uses an interest rate rule to target the price of gold. In the second, there is no convertibility and the central bank targets uses an interest rate rule to target an inflation rate. We find that strict inflation targeting, even though it introduces a unit root into the price level, provides more short-run stability than the gold standard and as much long-term price stability as does the gold standard for horizons shorter than 30 years. We find that Fisher's compensated dollar reduces price level and inflation uncertainty by an order of magnitude at all horizons.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Bordo & Robert D. Dittmar & William T. Gavin, 2003. "Gold, Fiat Money, and Price Stability," NBER Working Papers 10171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10171
    Note: DAE ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. Dittmar, Robert D. & Gavin, William T., 2005. "Inflation-targeting, price-path targeting and indeterminacy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 88(3), pages 336-342, September.
    9. Sargent, Thomas J. & Wallace, Meil, 1983. "A model of commodity money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 163-187.
    10. McCallum, Bennett T., 1999. "Issues in the design of monetary policy rules," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 23, pages 1483-1530 Elsevier.
    11. Allan Meltzer & Saranna Robinson, 1989. "Stability Under the Gold Standard in Practice," NBER Chapters,in: Money, History, and International Finance: Essays in Honor of Anna J. Schwartz, pages 163-202 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    13. Bordo, Michael D. & Jonung, Lars, 2000. "A Return to the Convertibility Principle? Monetary And Fiscal Regimes in Historical Perspective," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 415, Stockholm School of Economics.
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    15. Robert Dittmar & William T. Gavin & Finn E. Kydland, 1999. "Price-level uncertainty and inflation targeting," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 23-34.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Newby, Elisa, 2012. "The suspension of the gold standard as sustainable monetary policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 1498-1519.
    3. Richard C.K. Burdekin & Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2012. "Irving Fisher and Priceā€Level Targeting in Austria: Was Silver the Answer?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44(4), pages 733-750, June.
    4. A. Malliaris & Mary Malliaris, 2013. "Are oil, gold and the euro inter-related? Time series and neural network analysis," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 1-14, January.
    5. Elisa Newby, 2007. "Macroeconomic Implications of Gold Reserve Policy of the Bank of England during the Eighteenth Century," CDMA Working Paper Series 200708, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    6. Elisa Newby, 2007. "The Suspension of Cash Payments as a Monetary Regime," CDMA Working Paper Series 200707, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    7. Shafiee, Shahriar & Topal, Erkan, 2010. "An overview of global gold market and gold price forecasting," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 178-189, September.
    8. Bagus, Philipp & Gabriel, Amadeus & Howden, David, 2014. "Causes and Consequences of Inflation," MPRA Paper 79608, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System

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