Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mostly economic history

Did people in the U.S. actually get shorter during the Industrial Revolution? Maybe not Bodenhorn, Guinnane and Mroz and  Ariell Zimran. (HT @pseudoerasmus)

Pseudoerasmus on famines.

Business History Conference program

Economic History Association program

Special issue of Journal of Financial Stability on alternatives to the Fed. Lawrence White advocates a return to a commodity standardOn the other hand, the St. Louis Fed doesn’t think a return to gold would be such a good idea. . Also, here is George Selgin on 10 things economists should know about the gold standard. Selgin argues out that most of the problems that arose under the gold standard arose less from the gold standard itself than from attempts to interfere with it. I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say “That U.S. financial crises during the gold standard era had more to do with U.S. financial regulations than with the workings of the gold standard itself is recognized by all competent financial historians.” I do think that U.S. financial regulations were largely responsible for financial crises, but I am not prepared to call anyone who disagrees with me incompetent. Hanes and Rhode, for instance make a case for a combination of  cotton crops and the gold standard.

But I assume if we had a gold standard again governments would interfere with it just like they did back then.  

While I do not regard all advocates of the gold standard as nuts, I am skeptical that it would be a good idea. First, there seemed to be a fair amount of manipulation of gold flows. Attempts by the Bank of England to prevent the outflow of gold played a role in several U.S. Panics, e.g. 1837 and 1907, and Irwin has made a case that France’s sterilization of gold inflows played a significant role in causing the Great Depression. Second, when push comes to shove, countries abandon the gold standard. In other words, it’s not obvious why a commitment to uphold a commodity standard should be more convincing than a commitment to strictly adhere to a rule to target money supply growth, inflation, NGDP, or something else.   


And here is another take on the Alice Goffman controversy.

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