The Optimum Quantity Of Money

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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.
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Transaction Publishers
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Jan 1, 2005
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Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
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Monetary policy can be defined broadly as any policy relating to the supply of money. Since the main agency concerned with the supply of money is the nation's central bank, the Federal Reserve, monetary policy can also be defined in terms of the directives, policies, statements, and actions of the Federal Reserve, particularly those from its Board of Governors that have an effect on aggregate demand or national spending. The nation's financial press and markets pay particular attention to the pronouncements of the chairman of the Board of Governors, the nation's central banker. The reason for this attention is that monetary policy can have important effects on aggregate demand and through it on real Gross Domestic Product (GDP),unemployment, real foreign exchange rates, real interest rates, the composition of output, etc. It is paradoxical, however, that these important effects, to the extent that they occur, are essentially only short-run in nature. Over the longer run, the major effect of monetary policy is on the rate of inflation. Thus, while a more rapid rate of money growth may for a time stimulate the economy leading to a more rapid rate of real GDP growth and a lower unemployment rate, over the longer run these changes are undone and the economy is left with a higher rate of inflation. In some societies where high rates of inflation are endemic, more rapid rates of money growth fail to exercise any stimulating effect and are almost immediately translated into higher rates of inflation. Traditionally, two means have been used to measure the posture of monetary policy. Since monetary policy involves the Federal Reserve's contribution to aggregate demand or money spending, it would be logical to examine the growth rate of the money supply. A growing money supply is important for the subsequent growth in money spending or aggregate demand. Giving empirical content to the abstract concept of "the supply of money" has not been easy. For the United States, three different collections of assets have been defined as "money" and labelled M1, M2,and M3. Unfortunately, over the period 1990-2004 these aggregates have not been consistently linked to money spending and, consequently, they are not the major focus of monetary policy. Rather, the Federal Reserve executes monetary policy by setting a target for an overnight interest rate called the federal funds rate. Low or falling rates are usually taken as a sign of monetary ease; high or rising rates usually indicate monetary tightness. Changes in the federal funds rates affect primarily short-term interest rates, and through these changes, money spending. The book then looks more closely at five economies that have adopted a price stability goal: New Zealand (which was the first country to adopt targeting), Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Euro area. One key finding from these case-studies is that, in practice, central banks tend to operate with greater latitude and more discretion than some targeting proponents may have envisioned. For example, central banks still tend to respond to a decline in economic activity by lowering interest rates, even though strict attention to the target might not justify it. This is possible because exceptions to the targets are granted for a variety of shocks and the definition of inflation being targeted often excludes price changes due to factors such as food, energy, and excise taxes. The book concludes with a brief analysis of the record of inflation targeting in the developing world. It finds that the improvement in economic performance following the adoption of inflation targeting is greater in the developing world. Since developing world countries often experience economic and political instability.
MONETARY PROBLEMS—a by-product of the indirect system of exchange—have long plagued the nations of the world. History is replete with instances in which such problems led not only to economic instability and uncertainty, but to political crises as well. In our own American experience there has hardly been a period when the economy was not beset by one type of monetary ill or another.

Consider, for example, the more important monetary disturbances of our own time, viz., those of the last 30 years or so. Our legacy from the financial collapse of 1929 was a monetary and banking system which was virtually defunct. Though some progress was made in shoring up our monetary and banking institutions after 1933, this of itself was inadequate to help us escape the deflation and mass unemployment which persisted throughout the 1930’s.

For the decade of the 1940’s, of course, the pendulum swung to the other side of the arc. Following the outbreak of World War II, and particularly after our direct involvement in 1941, an attempt was made to hold the line against inflation. This attempt achieved at best only partial success. Support by the Federal Reserve System of the prices of government securities, wartime military expenditures, the postwar investment boom, and the postwar pent-up demand for consumer goods backed by liquid assets acquired during the War combined to produce a rise in prices throughout the War and early postwar period.

Although inflation subsided somewhat after 1948, it was intensified by the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in the period after 1950. During the latter part of 1953, and throughout 1954 and 1955, prices remained relatively stable. But in 1956, the inflationary rise received a new stimulus. Caused largely by another investment boom, the inflationary movement had such momentum that it caused prices to rise even in the face of the 1957-1958 recession.

Professor Friedman’s objective in this third of the Moorhouse I. X. Millar Lecture Series is certainly not one of finding a formula which will eradicate all uncertainty and instability attending monetary disturbances. For these, as he puts it, are “unavoidable concomitants of progress and change.” However, it is possible to attenuate further the amplitude of our fluctuations by modifying, and in some cases completely revamping the monetary and banking arrangements currently in force in the United States. Specifically, this is the task to which Professor Friedman addresses himself.

This classic is organized as follows:

Chapter One. The Background of Monetary Policy

Why Should Government Intervene in Monetary and Banking Questions?

The Historical Background

The Period From 1837 To 1843

The Contraction of 1873-79

The 1890’s

The Contraction of 1907-08

Under the Federal Reserve System


Chapter Two. The Tools of the Federal Reserve System

Tools of Specific Credit Policy

Eligibility Requirements

Control Over Margin Requirements

Control Over Consumer Installment Credit

Control Over Interest Paid by Banks on Deposits

Tools of Monetary Policy

The Sufficiency of Open Market Operations


Variation in Reserve Requirements


Chapter Three. Debt Management and Banking Reform

Debt Management

Banking Reform

Defects of Present Banking System

Possible Remedies

How 100% Reserves Would Work

Transition to 100% Reserves

The Relation of 100% Reserves to Debt Management

Why Interest Should Be Paid on Reserves

How Interest Payments on Reserves Might Be Determined


Chapter Four. The Goals and Criteria of Monetary Policy

International Monetary Relations

Internal Monetary Policy


Summary of Recommendations

The new edition of a comprehensive treatment of monetary economics, including the first extensive coverage of the effective lower bound on nominal interest rates.

This textbook presents a comprehensive treatment of the most important topics in monetary economics, focusing on the primary models monetary economists have employed to address topics in theory and policy. Striking a balance of insight, accessibility, and rigor, the book covers the basic theoretical approaches, shows how to do simulation work with the models, and discusses the full range of frictions that economists have studied to understand the impacts of monetary policy.

For the fourth edition, every chapter has been revised to improve the exposition and to reflect recent research. The new edition offers an entirely new chapter on the effective lower bound on nominal interest rates, forward guidance policies, and quantitative and credit easing policies. Material on the basic new Keynesian model has been reorganized into a single chapter to provide a comprehensive analysis of the model and its policy implications. In addition, the chapter on the open economy now reflects the dominance of the new Keynesian approach. Other new material includes discussions of price adjustment, labor market frictions and unemployment, and moral hazard frictions among financial intermediaries. References and end-of-chapter problems allow readers to extend their knowledge of the topics covered.

Monetary Theory and Policy continues to be the most comprehensive and up-to-date treatment of monetary economics, not only the leading text in the field but also the standard reference for academics and central bank researchers.

Of all wealth, man himself is a species. Like his horses or his cattle, he is himself a material object, and like them, he is owned: for if slave, he is owned by another, and if free, by himself. But though human beings may be considered as wealth, human qualities, such as skill, intelligence, and inventiveness, are not wealth. Just as the hardness of steel is not wealth, but merely a quality of one particular kind of wealth, -hard steel, -so the skill of a workman is not wealth, but merely a quality of another particular kind of wealth-skilled workman. Similarly, intelligence is not wealth, but an intelligent man is wealth. -from "Chapter I: Primary Definitions" Perhaps America's first celebrated economist, Irving Fisher-for whom the Fisher equation, the Fisher hypothesis, and the Fisher separation theorem are named-staked an early claim to fame with his revival, in this 1912 book, of the "quantity theory of money." An important work of 20th-century economics, this work explores: the circulation of money against goods the various circulating media the mystery of circulating credit how a rise in prices generates a further rise influence of foreign trade on the quantity of money the problem of monetary reform and much more. AUTHOR BIO: American economist IRVING FISHER (1867-1947) was professor of political economy at Yale University. Among his many books are Mathematical Investigations in the Theory of Value and Prices (1892), The Rate of Interest (1907), Why Is the Dollar Shrinking? A Study in the High Cost of Living (1914), and Booms and Depressions (1932).
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
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