International Adjustment under the Classic Gold Standard
Evidence for the U.S. and Britain, 1879-1914

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Abstract

Links between disturbances in financial markets and those in real activity have long been the focus of studies of economic fluctuations during the period prior to World War I. We emphasize that domestic autonomy was substantially limited by internationally integrated markets for goods and capital. Such findings are important for studying business cycles during the period; for example, when prices are flexible, observed cyclical movements can be related to a credit-market transmission of deflationary shocks.

Recent studies of the classical gold standard have revived interest in the process by which macroeconomic shocks were transmitted internationally during this period. The principal competing approaches--the "price-specie-flow," mechanism and the more modern "internationalist" view--differ according to the means by which international equilibrium is reestablished after a disturbance occurs in capital, money, or commodity markets. We present and interpret separate pieces of evidence on gold flows, interest rates, and selected commodity prices, all of which shed light on the alternative assumptions employed in the price-specie-flow and modern approaches. We employ a monthly data set for the U.S. and Britain for the pre-World War I frameworks. Using the "structural VAR" approach of Bernanke and Sims, we compare the actual historical importance of shocks and the observed patterns of short-run adjustment to shocks with the prediction of each of the two models. The evidence supports the "internationalist" view of close international linkages over the "specie-flow" view of circuitous linkages and domestic autonomy in money and capital markets.

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About the Author

 

Charles W.
Calomiris
  • Charles W. Calomiris is the Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions at Columbia Business School. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee and the Financial Economists Roundtable, and the coordinator of the Bank Performance and the Economy program at the Center for Financial Research at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Until 2007, he was the co-director of AEI's Financial Deregulation Project. His research at AEI spanned several areas, from banking and corporate finance to financial history and monetary economics. Calomiris also served on the 2000 International Financial Institution Advisory Commission. Known as the Meltzer Commission, this congressionally mandated group recommended specific reforms of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the regional development banks and the World Trade Organization to the U.S. government.
  • Phone: 2128548748
    Email: ccalomiris@aei.org

 

R. Glenn
Hubbard
  • Glenn Hubbard, a former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, is currently the dean of Columbia Business School. He specializes in public and corporate finance and financial markets and institutions. He has written more than ninety articles and books, including two textbooks, on corporate finance, investment decisions, banking, energy economics, and public policy. He has served as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department and as a consultant to, among others, the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Brittany Pineros
    Email: brittany.pineros@aei.org

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