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Is Numerairology the Future of Monetary Economics? Unbundling numeraire and medium of exchange through a virtual currency and a shadow exchange rate

  • Willem H. Buiter

The paper discusses some fundamental problems in monetary economics associated with the determination and role of the numeraire. The issues are introduced by formalising a proposal, attributed to Eisler, to remove the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates by unbundling the numeraire and medium of exchange/means of payment functions of money. The monetary authorities manage the exchange rate between the numeraire ('sterling') and the means of payment ('drachma'). The short nominal interest rate on sterling bonds can then be used to target stability for the sterling price level. The paper puts question marks behind two key bits of conventional wisdom in contemporary monetary economics. The first is the assumption that the monetary authorities define and determine the numeraire used in private transactions. The second is the proposition that price stability in terms of that numeraire is the appropriate objective of monetary policy. The paper also discusses the merits of the next step following the decoupling of the numeraire from the currency: doing away with currency altogether - the cashless economy. Because the unit of account plays such a central role in New-Keynesian models with nominal rigidities, monetary economics needs to devote more attention to numerairology - the study of the individual and collective choice processes that govern the adoption of a unit of account and its role in economic behaviour.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12839.

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Date of creation: Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12839
Note: IFM ME
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  1. Brock, William A, 1974. "Money and Growth: The Case of Long Run Perfect Foresight," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 15(3), pages 750-77, October.
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  6. repec:nbr:nberre:0126 is not listed on IDEAS
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  9. Andrew C. Caplin & Daniel F. Spulber, 1987. "Menu Costs and the Neutrality of Money," NBER Working Papers 2311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Buiter, Willem H., 2004. "Helicopter Money: Irredeemable Fiat Money and the Liquidity Trap," CEPR Discussion Papers 4202, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  13. Buiter, Willem H & Jewitt, Ian, 1981. "Staggered Wage Setting with Real Wage Relativities: Variations on a Theme of Taylor," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 49(3), pages 211-28, September.
  14. Willem H. Buiter & Marcus H. Miller, 1983. "Costs and Benefits of an Anti-Inflationary Policy: Questions and Issues," NBER Working Papers 1252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Willem H. Buiter & Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, 2003. "Overcoming the zero bound on nominal interest rates with negative interest on currency: gesell's solution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 723-746, October.
  18. Willem H. Buiter & Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, 1999. "Liquidity Traps: How to Avoid Them and How to Escape Them," NBER Working Papers 7245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Bennett T. McCallum, 2001. "Monetary policy analysis in models without money," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 145-164.
  20. Buiter, Willem H., 2006. "The elusive welfare economics of price stability as a monetary policy objective: why New Keynesian central bankers should validate core inflation," Working Paper Series 0609, European Central Bank.
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