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Recent contributions on ‘financial repression’ and ‘money illusion’ have referred to Maynard Keynes's How to Pay for the War as a supporting document. This article discusses whether Keynes prescribed policies of ‘financial repression’ that were implemented in the United Kingdom, and other countries, following World War II. It seems reasonable that Keynes's writings were instrumental in translating British monetary experiences of the 1920s and 1930s into expectations of policymakers during and after World War II, including a belief in ‘money illusion’ that suggested the use of inflation for driving down real interest rates of public bonds. If this was the case, How to Pay for the War could indeed provide an important explanation for the why and when of ‘financial repression’. This article argues that How to Pay for the War only partly provided support for a policy of ‘financial repression’, and none for using inflation as a ‘tax gatherer’ to the detriment of domestic savers in general. Crediting Keynes as a source for widespread ‘money illusion’ is also out of line with the historical record.
From 1716 to 1718, Sweden experienced a shock of liquidity when the absolutist regime of Charles XII issued large amounts of fiat coins (mynttecken) in order to finance the Great Northern War. After the death of the king in November 1718, the new parliamentary regime decided to partially default on the coins. In international literature, this episode is largely unknown, and in Swedish historiography, scholars have often claimed that the country's currency collapsed in hyperinflation. We assess the performance of the new coins by studying how prices of commodities in various geographic locations developed. We also study bookkeeping practices in order to see how accountants treated the new coins. Our results show that there was a complex relationship between prices and liquidity. Prices of products in high demand by the military increased more than other prices. Accountants did not treat mynttecken and other currencies differently in 1718. It was only after the death of the king that accountants started to differentiate between different types of coins. The value of the fiat coins was linked to the actions and the legitimacy of the royal regime, which is in line with the State theory of money.
This paper aims to analyze the changes in the standard of living of workers in the popular sectors of Mendoza during the “great expansion” of the Argentine economy. A series of real wages of the construction pawn in public works is calculated for 1895–1914, in order to compare it with series of real wages of low and medium public employee grades (low-level policeman, porter and clerk) and vineyard employees, which were previously estimated. In this way, we try to know if the dynamism of viticulture and public investment improved their living conditions. In addition, it seeks to compare these results with the cost of a basic basket of goods and services and calculate family income for some construction laborers identified in the National Population Census of 1895, in order to know if they insured family subsistence.
In the present work we study the evolution of the prices of the most representative goods of the Buenos Aires market in the decades after independence from the Spanish empire. The paper analyses the evolution of import, export and local prices in Buenos Aires for the first half of the 19th century and intends to contribute to a more accurate estimate of the intense process of price inflation and changes in relative prices that occurred in Buenos Aires during this period. We also aspire to be able to analyse the relationships between the increases in prices and the institutional effects of commercial blockades, the issuance of paper money and changes in the demand for goods that occurred in the commercial interaction of Buenos Aires. An attempt is also made to compare the dynamics of various baskets of goods, allowing us to evaluate the differentiated effects in local, regional and overseas supply and demand. With this in mind we analyse both general price indexes, with their main changes, and also aim to integrate a variety of products in baskets that represent as accurately as possible the diverse demands of the commercial space offered by the Buenos Aires market. Finally, we reexamine the effects of the price variations of the baskets of prices on various social sectors and regions linked to the significant interregional plaza represented by the Buenos Aires market.
The paper tests the idea that major demographic shifts can affect housing prices. We first build an overlapping generation model and analytically solve for the equilibrium price of the asset. The model predicts that economies with a higher fraction of old people in the overall population have lower house prices. We empirically test this hypothesis using data on house prices and demographic variables from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We find that if population growth increases by one percentage point, house price growth increases by 1.4 percentage points.
Mobile phones have been central to ICT innovation since the introduction of the smartphone and constant-quality prices are a barometer of their economic impact. Official consumer price indices (CPIs) indicate that impact differs wildly across countries: for the 2008–18 period, average annual rates of mobile phone inflation range from no change to a 25 per cent decline among 12 key countries examined in this paper. Although evidence indicates certain fundamental factors are at play, mis-measurement may lead the spread in rates to be overstated. Examination of methods employed in CPI calculation, including quality adjustment and index formulas, illuminates but does not resolve the mystery.
In this note, we argue that a considerable part of the explanation for the benign wage growth in the advanced world is the rise in underemployment. In the years after 2008 the unemployment rate understates labour market slack. Underemployment is more important than unemployment in explaining the weakness of wage growth in the UK. The Phillips curve in the UK has now to be rewritten into wage underemployment space. Underemployment now enters wage equations while the unemployment rate does not. There is every reason to believe that the NAIRU has fallen sharply since the Great Recession. In our view the NAIRU in the UK may well be nearer to 3 per cent, and even below it, than around 5 per cent, which other commentators including the MPC and the OBR believe.
This article uses historical US inflation data covering over two centuries to examine the impact of the establishment of the US Federal Reserve on average US inflation and inflation uncertainty. We find that the founding of the Fed is associated with higher average US inflation and lower inflation uncertainty. Critically, these results are not driven by the post-1980 period, where the Fed policy is characterised by the dual mandate. Other important results are that the gold standard period is associated with both lower inflation and inflation uncertainty, and that banking and stock market crises are a positive determinant of inflation uncertainty and perhaps inflation. World Wars I and II and the US Civil War are associated with both higher inflation and higher inflation uncertainty. In addition, we find that the central bank has responded to increasing inflation uncertainty in a stabilising manner in support of the Holland hypothesis.
In this note, we focus on underemployment as a potential cause of lower wage growth, which itself may have deeper causes, but which has, we would argue, demonstrably changed since the 2008 recession. The gap between our measures of the number of additional hours required by those who want more hours and the number who want less has narrowed recently. Neither have returned to their pre-recession levels. In our view, underemployment remains a major factor in explaining the 2 per cent wage norm that continues to exist in the UK.
In December 1933, John Maynard Keyes published an open letter to President Roosevelt, where he wrote: ‘The recent gyrations of the dollar have looked to me more like a gold standard on the booze than the ideal managed currency of my dreams.’ This was a criticism of the ‘gold-buying program’ launched in October 1933. In this article I use high-frequency data on the dollar–pound and dollar–franc exchange rates to investigate whether the gyrations of the dollar were unusually high in late 1933. My results show that although volatility was pronounced, it was not higher than during some other periods after 1921. Moreover, dollar volatility began to subside towards the end of the period alluded to by Keynes.
Before the Revolution American colonies issued paper money known as ‘bills of credit’. The bills issued in the Middle colonies held their value surprisingly well despite large wartime fluctuations in the quantity issued, but those issued in New England depreciated as the quantity in circulation increased. The bills' stable purchasing power in the Middle colonies has often been attributed to the redemption provisions enacted when the bills were issued. Similar provisions in New England supposedly failed because New England failed to enforce them. This article explores the comparative enforcement of redemption provisions in the two regions, and in New York in particular, and concludes that differential enforcement does not explain the disparity between the New England experience and that in the Middle colonies.
This article analyses the pillar of modern central bank governance, i.e. central bank independence, from three perspectives. First, we provide a systematic review of the economics of central bank independence. Second, applying a principal agent model we design a political economy framework, which explains how politicians can shape central bank governance in addressing macroeconomic shocks, while taking into account both the wishes of the citizens and their own personal interests. This framework is then used to interpret the evolution of central bank independence from the Great Inflation (1970s), throughout the Great Moderation (1980s-2000s) and to the Great Recession (2007-14). We provide empirical evidence supporting this evolution using recently developed indices of dynamic central bank independence. Further, our findings stress the importance of macroeconomic shocks in shaping the evolution of central bank independence after the global financial crisis.
As long as all interest rates move in tandem – including the rate of return on paper currency – economic theory suggests no important difference between interest rate changes in the positive region and interest rate changes in the negative region. Indeed, in standard models, only the real interest rate and spreads between real interest rates matter. Thus, in most respects, negative interest rate policy is conventional. It is only (a) what needs to be done with paper currency, (b) difficulties in understanding negative rates or (c) institutional features interacting with negative rates that make negative interest rate policy unconventional.
In this article I present new calculations for the evolution of prices and standards of living in Seville from 1521 to 1603. Using new data on prices and new research on changes in nutrition and consumption, I improve the consumer price index. Two major improvements can be highlighted: the inclusion of rented housing prices and the use of three baskets of goods, according to the transformations identified in the consumption patterns. As a result of these improvements, the new data show that prices increase more (336%) than previously estimated by Hamilton (155%) and when using the Allen method (234%). Consequently, real wages decrease more with the new index (32%).
The growth of Argentina’s economy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was so great that it was called “The Great Expansion”. This explains the interest of economic historians to observe, analyze and explain the conditions under which such growth occurred. One of the topics is the 1890 crisis, or “Baring Crisis”. This was seen by contemporaries as the worst economic debacle of the nineteenth century. Studies in economic history have seen this crisis both their macroeconomic aspects, and from the impact that would have occurred in the population. Also, in recent years there has been a renewed interest in the production and analysis of series of prices and wages, as key to analyzing economic indicators economy conditions and living conditions and inequality. Given this historiographical renewal, in this article a new series of prices and wages of Buenos Aires in the late nineteenth century are presented. With this new information, and open discussion with previous works, a new perspective on the evolution of prices and wages is provided, with a different perspective on the impact of the 1890 crisis.
This article presents and analyses wholesale price series of Santa Fe (Argentina), an essential core of colonial commercial circuits, during the period 1700-1810. Mainly from monastic sources, the presented series include 14 products from local and regional origin. Production data has also been deflated using these indexes and purchasing power of wages has been measured. This allows studying inflation, deflation and standards of living and their relation to economic growth. Growth, even prior to trade liberalization of 1778, was matched by deflation so it may suggest improvements in mercantile circuits. This new evidence provides a solid tool for regional and international comparative analysis.
This study builds the first internationally comparable index of real wages for Mexico City bridging the 18th and the early 20th century. Real wages started out in relatively high international levels in the mid 18th century, but declined from the late 1770s on, with some partial and temporal rebounds after the 1810s. After the 1860s, real wages recovered and eventually reached 18th-century levels in the early 20th century. Real wages of Mexico City’s workers subsequently fell behind those of high-wage economies to converge with the lower fringes of middle-wage economies. The age of the global Great Divergence was Mexico’s own age of stagnation and decline relative to the world economy.
This article investigates the extent to which national brand and private label (store brand) prices behave differently as food price inflation changes. Empirical tests using a range of indices support the hypotheses that rising commodity and fuel prices lead to relatively larger surges in private label prices. When food prices are rising or high, the average price difference between national brands and private labels shrinks. The findings have implications for understanding the welfare effects of private labels. Moreover, they suggest that food price inflation is stronger for low-income households as food prices rise.
We examine the relationship between prices and interest rates for seven advanced economies in the period up to 1913, emphasising the UK. There is a significant long-run positive relationship between prices and interest rates for the core commodity standard countries. Keynes ( 1971) labelled this positive relationship the ‘Gibson Paradox’. A number of theories have been put forward as possible explanations of the paradox but they do not fit the long-run pattern of the relationship. We find that a formal model in the spirit of Wicksell (1907) and Keynes ( 1971) offers an explanation for the paradox: where the need to stabilise the banking sector's reserve ratio, in the presence of an uncertain ‘natural’ rate, can lead to persistent deviations of the market rate of interest from its ‘natural’ level and consequently long-run swings in the price level.
The article investigates the determinants of consumer price inflation in China. While inflation has been entirely driven by international factors, such as food and energy prices, in the period preceeding the financial crisis, domestic drivers like monetary developments and nominal wages have become increasingly important since then. Due to tight trade linkages and the presence of Chinese firms in international production chains, the changing pattern is also relevant to other countries.