Quarterly Review 1741

In Order to Form a More Perfect Monetary Union

Arthur J. Rolnick | Senior Vice President and Director of Research, 1985-2010
Warren E. Weber | Retired Economist
Bruce D. Smith

Fall 1993

Why did states agree to a U.S. Constitution that prohibits them from issuing their own money? This article argues that two common answers to this question—a fear of inflation and a desire to control what money qualifies as legal tender—do not fit the facts. The article proposes a better answer: a desire to form a viable monetary union that both eliminates the variability of exchange rates between various forms of money and avoids the seigniorage problem that otherwise occurs in a fixed exchange rate system. Supporting evidence is offered from three periods of U.S. history: the colonial period (1690–1776), the Revolutionary War (1776–83), and the Confederation period (1783–89). This article is adapted from a chapter prepared for a forthcoming book, Varieties of Monetary Reforms: Lessons and Experiences on the Road to Monetary Union, edited by Pierre Siklos, to be published by Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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