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Greenback Resumption and Silver Risk: The Economics and Politics of Monetary Regime Change in the United States, 1862-1900

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  • Charles W. Calomiris

Abstract

This paper begins by developing a framework for price and interest rate determination under suspension of convertibility during the national banking period. The model is applied to interpret unanticipated price level shocks and expected deflation during the period of green back inconvertibility( 1862-1879), and to explain forward discounts on the dollar during the 1890s, which saw substantial risk of a return to suspension of convertibility. Special features of dollar value risk during the 1890s, including an endogenous supply of government licensed money (national bank notes), and a time-varying probability of a long-run switch to silver, require a different model of speculative attack from the standard approach which assumes a government-controlled supply of money. The salient empirical findings of the paper are: (1) Ex ante real interest rates were higher than nominal interest rates during the 1870s, and lower than nominal interest rates during the silver-risk episodes of the mid-1890s. (2) Runs on the dollar in the 1890s mainly reflected concerns about short-run convertibility, and small depreciation of the dollar contingent on suspension, rather than a likely immediate switch from gold to a permanently depreciated silver standard. (3) Expected deflation in the 1870s accounts for the apparent weakness of the procyclicality of prices, using annual data for the national banking period. Once one takes account of shifting expectations of inflation, unanticipated movements in prices and output are much more closely related.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles W. Calomiris, 1992. "Greenback Resumption and Silver Risk: The Economics and Politics of Monetary Regime Change in the United States, 1862-1900," NBER Working Papers 4166, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4166
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Christopher Hanes & John A. James, 2003. "Wage Adjustment Under Low Inflation: Evidence from U.S. History," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1414-1424, September.
    3. Hugh Rockoff, 1999. "How Long Did It Take the United States to Become an Optimal Currency Area?," Departmental Working Papers 199910, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    4. Meulemann, Max & Uebele, Martin & Wilfling, Bernd, 2014. "The restoration of the gold standard after the US Civil War: A volatility analysis," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 37-46.
    5. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher M. Meissner, 2007. "Financial Crises, 1880-1913: The Role of Foreign Currency Debt," NBER Chapters,in: The Decline of Latin American Economies: Growth, Institutions, and Crises, pages 139-194 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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