Currency Convertibility: The Gold Standard and Beyond

By Jorge Braga De Macedo; Barry Eichengreen et al. | Go to book overview

2

THE OPERATION OF THE SPECIE STANDARD

Evidence for core and peripheral countries, 1880-1990 *

Michael D. Bordo and Anna J. Schwartz


INTRODUCTION

The classical gold standard era from 1880 to 1914, when most countries of the world defined their currencies in terms of a fixed weight (which is equivalent to a fixed price) of gold and hence adhered to a fixed exchange rate standard, has been regarded by many observers as a most admirable monetary regime. They find that its benefits include long-run price level stability and predictability, stable and low long-run interest rates, stable exchange rates (McKinnon, 1988), and hence that it facilitated a massive flow of capital from the advanced countries of Europe to the world's developing countries.

Others have taken a less favorable view of the gold standard's performance. Some criticize the record of relatively high real output and short-term price variability (Bordo, 1981; Cooper, 1982; Meltzer and Robinson, 1989), and some have faulted it for subordinating domestic stability to the maintenance of external convertibility (Keynes, 1930).

A persistent critique of the gold standard is that it provided a favorable experience for the core countries (France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States), but a less favorable experience for the peripheral countries of the developing world (de Cecco, 1974). For the core countries the balance of payments adjustment mechanism was stable, so few crises occurred; the peripheral countries, by contrast, were subject to shocks imported under fixed exchange rates from abroad and frequently suffered exchange rate crises and a destabilized growth pattern.

An alternative approach to these issues of gold standard history posits that adherence to the fixed price of specie, which characterized all convertible metallic regimes including the gold standard, served as a credible commitment mechanism to monetary and fiscal policies that otherwise would be time inconsistent (Bordo and Kydland, 1996; Giovannini, 1993). On this basis, adherence to the specie standard rule enabled many countries to avoid the

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Currency Convertibility: The Gold Standard and Beyond
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Part I - Overview 1
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The Operation of the Specie Standard 11
  • Part II - Myths and Realities of the Gold Standard 85
  • 3 - The Origins of the Gold Standard 87
  • 4 - Short-Term Capital Movements Under the Gold Standard 102
  • 5 - The Geography of the Gold Standard 113
  • Comment 144
  • Comment 151
  • Part III - Portuguese Currency Experience 157
  • 6 - First to Join the Gold Standard, 1854 159
  • 7 - Last to Join the Gold Standard, 1931 182
  • 8 - Monetary Stability, Fiscal Discipline and Economic Performance 204
  • Comment 228
  • Comment 233
  • Part IV - Implications for Europe in the 1990s 239
  • 9 - Converging Towards a European Currency Standard 241
  • Index 266
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