Quarterly Review 2642

The Relationship Between Money and Prices: Some Historical Evidence Reconsidered

Bruce D. Smith

Fall 2002

This article describes a debate about the validity of the quantity theory of money and offers further evidence against it. The evidence is primarily from the North American colonies of Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania and regards the issue of measuring the money supply. Studies have shown that changes in colonial money and inflation are inconsistent with the quantity theory. Some have argued that those studies measure money wrong: specie belongs in the measure because the colonies were on a fixed exchange rate system with Britain; changes in colonial paper money were offset by specie flows. When specie is counted, the quantity theory stands. This study responds with evidence that the critics are wrong: the colonies had no such fixed exchange rate regime, and movements in the stock of colonial paper currency cannot have been offset by specie flows.

Reprinted From: Quarterly Review (Vol. 12, No. 3, Summer 1988, pp. 18-32)

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