Economics is sometimes divided into two parts: positive economics and normative economics. The former deals with how the economic problem is solved, while the latter deals with how the economic problem should be solved. The effects of price or rent control on the distribution of income are problems of positive economics. The desirability of these effects on income distribution is a problem of normative economics. 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.
Writing in the June 1965 issue of theEconomic Journal, Harry G. Johnson begins with a sentence seemingly calibrated to the scale of the book he set himself to review: "The long-awaited monetary history of the United States by Friedman and Schwartz is in every sense of the term a monumental scholarly achievement--monumental in its sheer bulk, monumental in the definitiveness of its treatment of innumerable issues, large and small . . . monumental, above all, in the theoretical and statistical effort and ingenuity that have been brought to bear on the solution of complex and subtle economic issues."

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).

This classic set of essays by Nobel Laureate and leading monetary theorist Milton Friedman presents a coherent view of the role of money, focusing on specific topics related to the empirical analysis of monetary phenomena and policy. The early chapters cover factors determining the real quantity of money held in a community and the welfare implications of policies that affect the quantity held. The following chapters formally restate why quantity analysis has become central to the science of economics.

Friedman's presidential address to the American Economic Association, included here, provides a general summary of his views on the role of monetary policy, with an emphasis on its limitations and its possibilities. This theoretical framework is used in examining a number of empirical problems: the demand for money, the explanation of price changes in wartime periods, and the role of money in business cycles. These essays summarize some of the most important results of Friedman's extensive research over the course of his lifetime. The chapters on policy that follow survey the positions of earlier economists and deal with the importance of lags and the implications of destabilizing speculation in foreign markets.

Taken as a whole, The Optimum Quantity of Money provides a comprehensive view of the body of monetary theory developed in leading centers of monetary analysis. This work is essential reading for economists and graduate students in the field. The volume will be no less important for practicing business and banking personnel as well. The new statement by Michael Bordo, a student of Friedman's and an expert in the field, provides a sense of where the field now stands in the economy and academy.

Milton Friedman is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Before that, he was Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He has also taught at Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, and Cambridge University. Among his many books are Essays in Positive Economics, A Program for Monetary Stability, Capitalism and Freedom, and A Monetary History of the United States. Michael D. Bordo is professor of economics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and author, with Lars Jonung, of, among other works, Demand for Money.
What is the exact nature of the consumption function? Can this term be defined so that it will be consistent with empirical evidence and a valid instrument in the hands of future economic researchers and policy makers? In this volume a distinguished American economist presents a new theory of the consumption function, tests it against extensive statistical J material and suggests some of its significant implications.

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.

"...the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century...possibly of all of it.”—The Economist

"Friedman argued that the best way to make sense of saving and spending was not, as Keynes had done, to resort to loose psychological theorizing, but rather to think of individuals as making rational plans about how to spend their wealth over their lifetimes...The details are a bit technical, but Friedman’s ‘permanent income hypothesis’ and the Ando-Modigliani ‘life cycle model’ resolved several apparent paradoxes about the relationship between income and spending, and remain the foundations of how economists think about spending and saving to this day."—Paul Krugman, New York Times
Economics is sometimes divided into two parts: positive economics and normative economics. The former deals with how the economic problem is solved, while the latter deals with how the economic problem should be solved. The effects of price or rent control on the distribution of income are problems of positive economics. The desirability of these effects on income distribution is a problem of normative economics.

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.

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