A Program For Monetary Stability by Milton Friedman

By Milton Friedman

Booklet by way of Friedman, Milton

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In order to throw some light on these questions, let us examine some individual episodes. The expansion of the money supply during the active phase of World War I requires little attention: until our entry into the war it was produced by the gold inflow from the belligerents to purchase war supplies, thereafter, by the use of the equivalent of the printing press to finance some war expenditures. Up to late 1918 or early 1919, the experience was the same as in earlier wars and the existence of the System made little difference to the general course of events.

Competition does not provide an effective limit, since the value of the promise to pay, if the currency is to remain fiduciary, must be kept higher than the cost of producing additional units. The production of a fiduciary currency is, as it were, a technical monopoly, and hence, there is no such presumption in favor of the private market as there is when competition is feasible. Incidentally, it is a monopoly that so far as I know has a unique propertythe total value to the community of the stock of the monopoly product is entirely independent of the number of units in the stock.

In almost every instance, major instability in the United States has been produced or, at the very least, greatly intensified by monetary instability. Monetary instability in its turn has generally arisen either from governmental intervention or from controversy about what governmental monetary policy should be. The failure of government to provide a stable monetary framework has thus been a major if not the major factor accounting for our really severe inflations and depressions. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the record is the adaptability and flexibility that the private economy has so frequently shown under such extreme provocation.

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