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Why did Countries Adopt the Gold Standard? Lessons from Japan

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Listed:
  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Masato Shizume
  • Marc D. Weidenmier

Abstract

Why did policymakers adopt the gold standard? Although previous research has identified ex post effects of gold standard adoption on trade and bond yields, few studies have sought to understand whether these were the actual outcomes of interest to policymakers at the time of adoption. We examine the political economy of Japan's adoption of the gold standard in 1897 by exploring the ex ante motives of policymakers as well as how the legislative decision to adopt gold won approval. We then link the beliefs of contemporaneous policymakers to data so that we can test the economic effects of adoption. In contrast to previous studies examining bond yields, we find little evidence that joining the gold standard reduced Japan's country risk or investors anticipated a dramatic decline in borrowing rates for the government. Moreover, we find no evidence of a domestic investment boom or that investors anticipated one and bid it into stock prices. However, as some policymakers suggested, we find that membership in the gold standard increased Japan's exports by lowering transactions costs and because the price of gold fell relative to silver, making exports to silver standard countries more competitive. While Japan also received a boost in exports to its regional trading partners when it switched from paper to silver, going onto gold allowed Japan to tap into the growing share of global trade that was centered on the gold standard: by the late 1890s nearly 60 percent of Japanese exports and total trade were with members of the gold club.

Suggested Citation

  • Kris James Mitchener & Masato Shizume & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2009. "Why did Countries Adopt the Gold Standard? Lessons from Japan," NBER Working Papers 15195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15195
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kris James Mitchener & Gonçalo Pina, 2016. "Pegxit Pressure: Evidence from the Classical Gold Standard," NBER Working Papers 22844, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Daniela Bragoli & Camilla Ferretti & Piero Ganugi & Giancarlo Ianulardo, 2013. "Monetary regimes and statistical regularity: the Classical Gold Standard (1880-1913) through the lenses of Markov models," Discussion Papers 1301, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
    3. Tang, John P., 2015. "The Engine And The Reaper: Industrialization And Mortality In Early Modern Japan," RCESR Discussion Paper Series DP15-10, Research Center for Economic and Social Risks, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    4. Grossman, Richard S. & Imai, Masami, 2009. "Japan's return to gold: Turning points in the value of the yen during the 1920s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 314-323, July.
    5. William Miles & Chu-Ping C. Vijverberg, 2014. "Did the Classical Gold Standard Lead to Greater Business Cycle Synchronization? Evidence from New Measures," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 93-115, February.
    6. William Miles, 2015. "Did the Classical Gold Standard Lead to Greater Price Level Convergence? A New Approach," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 351-377, April.
    7. Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc, 2015. "Was the Classical Gold Standard Credible on the Periphery? Evidence from Currency Risk," CEPR Discussion Papers 10388, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Pittaluga, Giovanni B. & Seghezza, Elena, 2016. "How Japan remained on the Gold Standard despite unsustainable external debt," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 40-54.
    9. Singleton,John, 2010. "Central Banking in the Twentieth Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521899093, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N25 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N75 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Asia including Middle East

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