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What If Alexander Hamilton Had Been Argentinean? A Comparison of the Early Monetary Experiences of Argentina and the United States

  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Carlos A. Vegh

The contrast between the early nineteenth century Argentinean experience of high inflation and the American experience of low inflation is interpreted in terms of a dynamic monetary model of optimal taxation. It is argued that the two countries' experiences diverged because of the different constraints they faced in financing wartime government expenditures. In the presence of frequent wars, ever-tightening access to foreign capital, and an inadequate tax base, Argentina's use of the inflation tax may be viewed as an optimal solution to its wartime problems. By contrast, with the exception of the Revolutionary War, the absence of such constraints in the United States required full-tax smoothing, with only a temporary use of the inflation tax during wartime. Such policies were embodied in Alexander Hamilton's fiscal package of 1790, which allowed the United States to bond-finance most subsequent wartime expenditures.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6862.

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Date of creation: Dec 1998
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Publication status: published as Bordo, Michael D. and Carlos A. Vegh. "What If Alexander Hamilton Had Been Argentinean? A Comparison Of The Early Monetary Experiences Of Argentina And The United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, 2002, v49(3,Apr), 459-494.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6862
Note: DAE ME
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  1. Ernesto Talvi & Carlos A. Vegh, 2000. "Tax Base Variability and Procyclical Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 7499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  3. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier X. Sala-i-Martin, 1997. "The Optimum Quantity of Money: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Auernheimer, Leonardo, 1974. "The Honest Government's Guide to the Revenue from the Creation of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(3), pages 598-606, May/June.
  6. Gerardo della Paolera and Alan M. Taylor., 1997. "Finance and Development in an Emerging Market: Argentina in the Interwar Period," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C97-089, University of California at Berkeley.
  7. Gerardo della Paolera & Alan M. Taylor, 2000. "Economic Recovery from the Argentine Great Depression: Institutions, Expectations, and the Change of Macroeconomic Regime," NBER Working Papers 6767, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Carlos A. Végh, 1989. "Government Spending and Inflationary Finance: A Public Finance Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 36(3), pages 657-677, September.
  9. Calomiris, Charles W., 1988. "Institutional Failure, Monetary Scarcity, and the Depreciation of the Continental," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(01), pages 47-68, March.
  10. Kimbrough, Kent P., 1986. "The optimum quantity of money rule in the theory of public finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 277-284, November.
  11. Barro, Robert J, 1986. " U.S. Deficits since World War I," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 195-22.
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