A Macroeconomics Reader

By Brian Snowdon; Howard R. Vane | Go to book overview

10

The monetarist controversy revisited

Franco Modigliani

Contemporary Policy Issues (1988) 6, October, pp. 3-18

I am delighted with the success of this conference honoring Michael Hamburger, and I am impressed by both the attendance and the outpouring of love, respect, and admiration for his work. I wish I could claim some credit for this success since, after all, he was a student of mine. Unfortunately, I cannot do so in good conscience. One reason for his coming to the Carnegie Institute of Technology for his graduate work was to study with me. But because I left soon after he arrived, he was my student for only a short time -a year or so. Since leaving Carnegie, I often have felt a bit guilty for abandoning Mike just a year after he arrived.

My topic for today actually was inspired by the last letter that Michael wrote to me—a letter of congratulations on the Nobel award, dated Oct. 15, 1985. It was a very warm letter in which he first gave me undeserved credit by asserting that ‘you probably had more influence on my career than anyone else. ’ He proceeded to say that ‘to keep you up-to-date on my activities, I am enclosing two of my latest reports. I believe that you will approve of the evolution of my thinking. ’

I must confess that because we were buried under a deluge of wonderful moving messages, I was unable to read the enclosures at that time. It was only when I heard the heartbreaking news of his death that I suddenly remembered I had not quite finished reading his message. I finally managed to do so.


CHARACTERISTICS OF MONETARISM

The enclosures were two issues of his monthly publication, Economic Insights. I found their content—especially that of August 1985, entitled ‘Money Growth Is Not Excessive’—quite extraordinary and gratifying. That report showed, without a shadow of a doubt, that Michael had abandoned ‘Monetarism’ with a capital ‘M’, as defined in my American Economic Association presidential address (1977). He had rejoined the ranks of monetarists with a small ‘m’—those like me and countless others concerned with the role of money in our economy.

As I suggested in that paper, the difference between a true Monetarist and the rest of us has little to do with views regarding the workings of the

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