The Big Problem of Small Change

Princeton University Press
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The Big Problem of Small Change offers the first credible and analytically sound explanation of how a problem that dogged monetary authorities for hundreds of years was finally solved. Two leading economists, Thomas Sargent and François Velde, examine the evolution of Western European economies through the lens of one of the classic problems of monetary history--the recurring scarcity and depreciation of small change. Through penetrating and clearly worded analysis, they tell the story of how monetary technologies, doctrines, and practices evolved from 1300 to 1850; of how the "standard formula" was devised to address an age-old dilemma without causing inflation.

One big problem had long plagued commodity money (that is, money literally worth its weight in gold): governments were hard-pressed to provide a steady supply of small change because of its high costs of production. The ensuing shortages hampered trade and, paradoxically, resulted in inflation and depreciation of small change. After centuries of technological progress that limited counterfeiting, in the nineteenth century governments replaced the small change in use until then with fiat money (money not literally equal to the value claimed for it)--ensuring a secure flow of small change. But this was not all. By solving this problem, suggest Sargent and Velde, modern European states laid the intellectual and practical basis for the diverse forms of money that make the world go round today.

This keenly argued, richly imaginative, and attractively illustrated study presents a comprehensive history and theory of small change. The authors skillfully convey the intuition that underlies their rigorous analysis. All those intrigued by monetary history will recognize this book for the standard that it is.

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About the author

Thomas J. Sargent is Donald Lucas Professor of Economics at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. A pioneer of the rational expectations school of macroeconomics, he is the author of The Conquest of American Inflation (Princeton), Bounded Rationality in Macroeconomics, and Dynamic Macroeconomic Theory. François R. Velde is Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and Lecturer in Economics at the University of Chicago.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 24, 2014
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Pages
392
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ISBN
9781400851621
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Thomas J. Sargent
This volume uses state of the art models from the frontier of macroeconomics to answer key questions about how the economy functions and how policy should be conducted. The contributions cover a wide range of issues in macroeconomics and macroeconomic policy. They combine high level mathematics with economic analysis, and highlight the need to update our mathematical toolbox in order to understand the increased complexity of the macroeconomic environment. The volume represents hard evidence of high research intensity in many fields of macroeconomics, and warns against interpreting the scope of macroeconomics too narrowly. The mainstream business cycle analysis, based on dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) modelling of a particular type, has been criticised for its inability to predict or resolve the recent financial crisis. However, macroeconomic research on financial, information, and learning imperfections had not yet made their way into many of the pre-crisis DSGE models because practical econometric versions of those models were mainly designed to fit data periods that did not include financial crises. A major response to the limitations of those older DSGE models is an active research program to bring big financial shocks and various kinds of financial, learning, and labour market frictions into a new generation of DSGE models for guiding policy. The contributors to this book utilise models and modelling assumptions that go beyond particular modelling conventions. By using alternative yet plausible assumptions, they seek to enrich our knowledge and ability to explain macroeconomic phenomena. They contribute to expanding the frontier of macroeconomic knowledge in ways that will prove useful for macroeconomic policy.
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