Friedman and Schwartz marshaled massive historical data and sharp analytics to support the claim that monetary policy--steady control of the money supply--matters profoundly in the management of the nation's economy, especially in navigating serious economic fluctuations. In their influential chapter 7, The Great Contraction--which Princeton published in 1965 as a separate paperback--they address the central economic event of the century, the Depression. According to Hugh Rockoff, writing in January 1965: "If Great Depressions could be prevented through timely actions by the monetary authority (or by a monetary rule), as Friedman and Schwartz had contended, then the case for market economies was measurably stronger."
Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 for work related to A Monetary History as well as to his other Princeton University Press book, A Theory of the Consumption Function (1957).
Central to the new theory is its sharp distinction between two concepts of income, measured income, or that which is recorded for a particular period, and permanent income, a longer-period concept in terms of which consumers decide how much to spend and how much to save. Milton Friedman suggests that the total amount spent on consumption is on the average the same fraction of permanent income, regardless of the size of permanent income. The magnitude of the fraction depends on variables such as interest rate, degree of uncertainty relating to occupation, ratio of wealth to income, family size, and so on.
The hypothesis is shown to be consistent with budget studies and time series data, and some of its far-reaching implications are explored in the final chapter.
This edition of the original text includes a new preface by Anna Jacobson Schwartz, as well as a new introduction by the economist Peter Bernstein. It also reprints comments from the current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, originally made on the occasion of Milton Friedman's 90th birthday, on the enduring influence of Friedman and Schwartz's work and vision.
Originally published in 1980.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
Within economics, the major division is between monetary theory and price theory. Monetary theory deals with the level of prices in general, with cyclical and other fluctuations in total output, total employment, and the like. Price theory deals with the allocation of resources among different uses, the price of one item relative to another.
Prices do three kinds of things. They transmit information, they provide an incentive to users of resources to be guided by this information, and they provide an incentive to owners of resources to follow this information. Milton Friedman's classic book provides the theoretical underpinning for and understanding of prices.
Economics is not concerned solely with economic problems. It is a social science, and is therefore concerned primarily with those economic problems whose solutions involve the cooperation and interaction of different individuals. It is concerned with problems involving a single individual only insofar as the individual's behavior has implications for or effects upon other individuals. Price Theory is concerned not with economic problems in the abstract, but with how a particular society solves its economic problems.