Quarterly Review 2641

Money and Inflation in Colonial Massachusetts

Bruce D. Smith

Fall 2002

This article argues that the quantity theory of money is not supported by the evidence. Contrary to the quantity theory, the article says, the value of money depends primarily on how carefully it is backed. That is, the rate of inflation depends more on underlying fiscal policies than on rates of money growth. The evidence for this argument comes from a close look at the way in which the colony of Massachusetts ended a severe long-term inflation in 1750. Other British North American colonies endured similar episodes, all of which parallel some periods of severe inflation in the 20th century United States. The 18th century evidence thus contains lessons for modern monetary policy.

Reprinted From: Quarterly Review (Vol. 8, No. 1, Winter 1984, pp. 1-14)

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