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This book contains essays presented at a conference held in November 2010 to mark the centenary of the famous 1910 Jekyll Island meeting of leading American financiers and the US Treasury. The 1910 meeting resulted in the Aldrich Plan, a precursor to the Federal Reserve Act that was enacted by Congress in 1913. The 2010 conference, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Rutgers University, featured assessments of the Fed's near 100-year track record by prominent economic historians and macroeconomists. The final chapter of the book records a panel discussion of Fed policy making by the current and former senior Federal Reserve officials.
The early Dutch Republic experienced a monetary problem called incremental debasement, for mints repeatedly reduced the precious metal content of coins by small amounts. Adam Smith termed this the “small-state” problem because small, open economies often made substantial use of foreign coins, so debased foreign mints flowed into ports like Amsterdam. Around 1600, The Dutch Republic was awash in foreign coins and these were widely used as media of exchange. The fragmented nature of minting authority within the Dutch Republic meant that debasement had a domestic component as well. Whether foreign or domestic, a debasement led to uncertainty in the value of payments, creating transaction costs that hampered commerce.
The Dutch authorities attempted to deal with this debasement problem through laws and regulations, but these were often slow and ineffective. It took decades, for example, for the Republic to establish full control over its numerous independent mints. By contrast, laws assigning coin values were enacted early and often, but these did not solve the problem of debasement. While these were intended to simplify the use of coins by giving them a known value (tale) in terms of a unit of account, we argue that these laws, called mint ordinances, had the unintended consequence of making the situation worse. The disconnect between legal and intrinsic value encouraged people to bring old coins with high intrinsic, but low legal value to the mint in order to repay their debts with newly debased coins.
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