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A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960


Author: Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz

Publisher: Princeton University Press


Publish Date: November 1, 1971

ISBN-10: 691003548

Pages: 888

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

THIS book had its origin in a conversation one of us had more than a decade ago with the late Walter W. Stewart. That conversation was about a statistical study of monetary factors in the business cycle, then proposed as one of the National Bureau’s cyclical studies. Stewart stressed the desirability of including an “analytical narrative” of post-Civil War monetary developments in the United States as a background for the statistical work, arguing that such a narrative was not currently available and would add a much needed dimension to the numerical evidence. His suggestion led us to include a chapter on the historical background of the money stock in our planned monograph. The chapter, which we began to write only after we had completed a first draft of the remaining chapters, took on a life of its own. The one chapter became two, then a separate part, and has now become a separate book. But, though separate, it is not entirely independent. Some statistical series we use in this book are explained in full in the forthcoming companion volume, “Trends and Cycles in the Stock of Money in the United States, 1867-1960,” which though first into draft will be later into print. The prescience of Stewart’s advice has been impressed upon us repeatedly as we have revised the chapters of the companion volume. Our foray into analytical narrative has significantly affected our statistical analysis.

The National Bureau’s interest in the cyclical behavior of monetary factors dates back to the inception of its studies in business cycles. The first product lineally related to the present study was Technical Paper 4 on currency and vault cash, published in 1947.1 The estimates there presented, now superseded, were the first step in the development of the money series which form the statistical backbone of the present study and of Phillip Cagan’s forthcoming volume, “Determinants and Effects of Changes in the U.S. Money Stock, 1875-1955.” Some early results were published in two occasional papers on the demand for money, and a by-product on problems of interpolation appeared as a technical paper.2

Despite the length to which this volume has grown, we are painfully aware of its restricted scope. Money touches every phase of the economic life of an enterprise-exchange economy and in consequence cannot fail to affect its politics as well. A full-scale economic and political history would be required to record at all comprehensively the role of money in the United States in the past century. Needless to say, we have not been so ambitious. Rather, we have kept in the forefront the initial aim: to provide a prologue and background for a statistical analysis of the secular and cyclical behavior of money in the United States, and to exclude any material not relevant to that purpose.

We have accumulated numerous and heavy debts during the many years that this book has been in the making. An earlier draft of the manuscript was duplicated some years ago and circulated among a number of scholars from whose comments and suggestions we have profited greatly. We owe an especially heavy debt to Clark Warburton. His detailed and valuable comments on several drafts have importantly affected the final version. In addition, time and again, as we came to some conclusion that seemed to us novel and original, we found he had been there before. Among the many others to whom we are indebted for valuable criticism are Moses Abramovitz, Gary S. Becker, Arthur F. Burns, Phillip Cagan, Lester V. Chandler, C. A. E. Goodhart, Gottfried Haberler, Earl J. Hamilton, Bray Hammond, Albert J. Hettinger, Jr., James K. Kindahl, David Meiselman, Lloyd Mints, Geoffrey H. Moore, George R. Morrison, Jay Morrison, Edward S. Shaw, Matthew Simon, and George 1. Stigler.

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