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Keynes, Chicago and Friedman

Author(s):Leeson, Robert
Reviewer(s):Samuels, Warren J.

Published by EH.NET (February 2005)

Robert Leeson, Keynes, Chicago and Friedman. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2003. xi + 381 pp. and vii + 534 pp. $325 (cloth), ISBN: 1-85196-767-2.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Warren J. Samuels, Department of Economics, Michigan State University.

I. The Controversy and its Possible Resolution Was there a “Chicago” Quantity-Theory oral tradition, or not; and if so, what was it?

Robert Leeson, of Murdoch University, has collected some fifty contributions to a narrow but intriguing topic in the history of the Chicago School and monetary economics: whether or not, prior to Milton Friedman’s publication in 1956 of his restatement of the quantity theory, there had been (as he claimed) an oral tradition at the University of Chicago of the quantity theory; and, if there was, of what did it consist? Friedman attributed to that oral tradition a model in which the quantity theory was “in the first instance” (vol. 1, p. 1, Leeson quoting Friedman) a theory of the demand for money; indeed, a stable demand for money. Friedman claimed that the tradition was spawned by Henry Simons and Lloyd Mints directly and by Frank Knight and Jacob Viner at one remove. Thirteen years later, Don Patinkin questioned the validity of Friedman’s interpretation of the quantity theory and his “Chicago” version (vol. 1, p. 87). Patinkin identified “The Other Chicago” version thusly: “The quantity theory is, first and foremost, not a theory of the demand for money, but a theory which relates the quantity of money (M) to the aggregate demand for goods and services (MV), and thence to the price level (P) and/or level of output (T); all this in accordance with Fisher’s MV=PT” (vol. 1, pp. 89, 91). After a further twenty-two years Patinkin held that the disagreement was not about “whether or not there was such an oral tradition, but what the nature of that tradition was” (vol. 1, p. 381). Friedman also has modified his position.

Leeson has gathered the important material pertinent to the questions about the Chicago “oral tradition.” He has mastered both that material and the intellectual environment in which the controversy took place, an environment dominated by Keynes’s General Theory. Of the two volumes’ total of 915 pages, some 180-plus pages contain Leeson’s essays on the contents of his four parts: The Initial Controversy, The Debate Widens, How Unique was the Chicago Tradition?, and Towards a Resolution of the Dispute. What does Leeson conclude?

Leeson places a great deal of interpretive weight on Friedman having taken Mints’s graduate course in money and banking (Economics 330) during his first year as a graduate student at Chicago in 1932-33. Leeson has been fortunate in having been given access by Friedman to his notes from Mints’s Economics 330. Leeson notes that “Friedman’s lecture notes are currently in his possession and have not been processed into his archives at the Hoover Institution” (vol. 2, p.515n.1). The next important round may well center on the notes. The course was organized around Keynes’s Treatise, one feature of which was “an increased emphasis on money demand in a revised quantity theory framework” (vol. 2, p. 486).

Additional interpretive weight is placed by Leeson on a private seminar held by graduate students; quite a group, for they included Friedman, Albert G. Hart, George Stigler, Allen Wallis, Kenneth Boulding, and others, as well as a stream of visiting economists.

Leeson concludes:It therefore seems likely that Friedman took the ideas he was exposed to in Economics 330 and used them as an organising framework with which to understand the ‘macroeconomic’ dislocation of the 1930s. If intense student discussion is admissible as an ‘oral tradition’ then Friedman’s assertion has some validity. A version of the quantity theory which was ‘in the first instance a theory of the demand for money’ was apparently ‘a central and vigorous part of the oral tradition’ at Chicago at least among graduate students in 1932-3 (and possibly until the General Theory made Keynes a suspect figure). (Vol. 2, p. 488)

One difficulty with Friedman’s initial position has to do with the concept of an “oral tradition.” Friedman was part of the 1932-33 (and beyond) discussion; the “oral” part of the concept is unobjectionable. But the “tradition” part is highly suspect, on which more below.

A second difficulty is that many different readings were given the Treatise (not unlike the later General Theory), each reading stressing different combinations of variations within a general quantity theory framework. This meant, on the one hand, that a variety of oral “traditions” likely co-existed throughout the discipline and, on the other hand, that some or many of them included significant attention to the demand for money. Leeson stresses the latter: “Friedman’s initial assertion about Chicago uniqueness in this context must now appear unreliable. … It is therefore improbable that the Treatise — with its emphasis on money demand — informed ‘macroeconomic’ discussions in Chicago only. Indeed, Friedman in the preface to these volumes has retreated from his initial assertion about Chicago uniqueness” (vol. 2, pp. 488, 489). In his preface, Friedman begins his defense saying that he early “was baffled … at what all the fuss was about. … very little was at stake.” He then takes, correctly but irrelevantly, the position that if he has been “confused about the origin of the ideas … it would not affect by an iota the validity or usefulness of those ideas.” He concludes that he remains “persuaded that I was the beneficiary of a Chicago oral tradition, but this evidence convinces me that I gave Chicago more credit for uniqueness than was justified. “The issue,” he repeats, “is entirely about the origin of ideas, not about the validity of content” (vol. 1, p. x). Friedman seems to have taken too much for granted; Chicago was no more homogeneous than was the discipline as a whole on the quantity theory.

Leeson is claiming, therefore, only that Friedman’s assertion had “some” validity — in the sense that much “macroeconomic” discussion at Chicago and elsewhere in the early 1930s resembled his 1956 restatement, that “tradition” is too strong, and the uniqueness claim is wrong and must be dropped.

II. Historiographical Considerations

The collection bears on several historiographical considerations.

1. The historical record is uneven. Political history leaves many documents. Social and economic history, until relatively recently, left few lasting markers, but often sufficient indirect evidence to enable imaginative scholars to intuit larger patterns. With only sparse materials bearing on an interpretive problem, historians of thought and others may well find it easy to leap to conclusions. But where one has a vast body of evidence, such leaps seem presumptuous. With sparseness, the world may seem simpler than it actually was; with plentitude, the big, bloomin’ confusion is amply evident. So it is with the problem of the Chicago “oral tradition.”

The existence and content of an “oral tradition” plus our ability to discern them are highly problematical. Until very recently, as historical time goes, the technology to record oral communication did not exist. Even now, absent mechanical recording, the oral, once uttered, no longer endures (vide Adam Smith on unproductive labor). One result is false and/or biased memory.

Clarence E. Ayres, a long-time friend of Frank Knight, was like Knight an imposing and convincing lecturer. It turns out that institutionalists trained by Ayres had different views of institutionalist doctrine (such as the so-called Veblen-Ayres dichotomy) depending on when they sat in Ayres’s classes. There was an oral tradition at Texas centering on Ayres, but for that reason it registered important variations over time. I would expect the same at Chicago, the notable difference being that Friedman, Stigler et alia were more successful.

2. Schools of thought, one surmises, once were loosely and partly non-deliberately and partly deliberately formed. As schools became obvious vehicles for promoting ideas and reputations, they became more highly, if still loosely, organized. Friedman and Stigler, as part of their professional activity, engaged in the role of cheerleader for “Chicago.” Friedman’s claim may well have been an example of the Chicago propensity to promote itself by self-publicizing its beliefs. Stigler was the premier practitioner but rare is the public presentation — e.g., papers given at professional meetings — by a Chicagoan that does not make some claim for the unique brilliance of the Chicago point of view. Leeson aptly quotes Stigler “that it was both ‘true, and necessary to their survival’ that ‘learned bodies are each run by a self-perpetuating inner clique'” (Leeson, vol. 1, p. 296). The twin objectives were the promotion of ideas, a certain definition of reality with which to influence policy; and the quest for power in both the economics profession and the larger world. Such constitutes the deliberate invention of tradition, and the members of the Chicago School have much company, in the world of academic public relations, in constructing suitable advertisements for themselves and their ideas. With the Chicago School on the cutting edge of theoretical development, such promotion is to be expected.

When it comes, therefore, to “Friedman’s motives” — I would prefer “style” — Leeson opines that “If his ‘Restatement’ [of the quantity theory] exaggerated the degree of continuity with respect to earlier Chicago versions of the quantity theory this may have been a rhetorical flourish designed to provide an additional motivational stimulus to his students” (vol. 2, p. 490). True enough, as far as it goes; Leeson has gone further (Leeson 2000a and 2003, both dealing with Friedman’s and Stigler’s struggle for influence). The Stigler-Friedman strategy was directed not only to motivate students but to influence the discipline of economics and its world of policy. That Keynes and others also practiced this strategy (vol. 2, p. 491), enables us to identify and put it into perspective.

Moreover, Friedman’s methodological position served the purpose of erecting his economic theory, here his monetary theory, as the maintained hypothesis under the guise of “predictive power.”

In any event, the quantity theory in any form is no substitute for a comprehensive macroeconomics. There is more to history of the quantity theory than the price level as a function of either the supply of money or the demand for money. There also are several different “monetary theories of production.” There is less to the quantity theory than its devotees often would have us believe. The quantity theory is not alone in deriving its attractiveness from its utility for mobilizing political psychology.

3. Significant differences existed over what is “absolute truth” in monetary economics, whether such existed, and if it did, what it was; over the relative weight to be given to inflation and unemployment as policy goals; over what is “sound” or “proper” monetary policy; and the evaluation of current policies and current events.

Some authors treated the quantity theory as a matter of causal relation and explanation, often differing as to the content and direction of explanation, whereas others saw it as a truism, identity or tautology.

The epistemological nature of much discussion of the quantity theory was mixed. Some of it was theory as hypothesis. Some was comprised of declarative statements without supporting evidence or with carefully constructed evidence. Who is to say which version of the quantity theory is correct? Is there one correct version? What are the criteria of correctness — and the meta-criteria by which to chose from among the criteria, et seq.?

These questions are difficult to answer, for two reasons. First, consider W. H. Hutt’s distinctions between “rational-thought,” “custom-thought,” and “power-thought.” “Rational-thought” is disinterested objective inquiry leading to the accumulation of undisputed social-science knowledge (once class-driven ideology has been removed). “Custom-thought” is modes of thinking infused with implicit premises derived from tradition and customary ways of doing and looking at things. “Power-thought” is modes of thought and expression that are constructed to influence power, politics, and policy, through their service in psycho-political mobilization (Hutt 1990, p. 3 and passim). All three types of thought, especially the latter two, are found in the literature collected by Leeson. Second, inasmuch as no theory, or no version of a theory, can cover all pertinent variables and answer all our questions, correctness by any definition is elusive — especially when various versions of the quantity theory have been adopted to weaken if not destroy the targeted opponent, Keynesian economics. Here, power and persuasion rank well above scientificity (amply developed in Leeson 2000a and 2003).

Economic arguments are used to manipulate political psychology and political psychology is used to manipulate economic policy. Ideology and wishful thinking have relatively easy entry, especially for economists and politicians who favor creation of a certain felicitous picture in the public’s mind as part of the process of creating/manipulating public opinion.

Monetary theory and policy (like many other fields in economics) were characterized by over-intellectualization and economic politics, treated as if conducted cognitively and in sterile environments, whereas they existed in a real world of power play, selective perception, psychology, uncertainty, the quest for wealth and prestige, and efforts to influence the economic role of government. Monetary policy is a function of power, ideology, tradeoffs, power play over the distributions of opportunity, income and wealth. Each model of monetary theory was more or less attractive to particular ideologies and invoked as a weapon in support of policies based on ideology, practical politics, etc.

III. How Different Versions of the Quantity Theory Could Exist

The question of the existence of a Chicago oral tradition and its possible content must confront the variety of forms given the quantity theory. Many individual quantity theorists had their own positions to advance; they had different perspectives, and monetary theory comprised many different considerations on which their different, and changing, perspectives could be brought to bear. Quantity-theory formulations could vary among theorists and each was nested in a larger and variegated model of the money economy. It is impossible to cover all this in a short review but at least the following can be said in abbreviated form.

Sophisticated versions of the quantity theory were possible but because of the vast number of possible complications, advocates were often interested in simple versions easily discussed and taught. The quest for singular explanations of macroeconomic phenomena — real balance effects, sticky or inflexible prices, etc. — was also relevant. Notice the phrases “in the first instance” (Friedman) and “first and foremost” (Patinkin). What, if anything, comes afterward? The problem is, in part, that economists tend to adopt the simplest and most highly stylized versions of their theories, often caricatures of the sophisticated versions held by at least some leading theorists. Advocates were either unaware of the magnitude of possible complications or had their perception thereof narrowed and/or finessed by ideologically driven a priori beliefs, and so on.

The quantity theory exhibited highly variegated content. The quantity theory was ubiquitous. One formulation or another constituted the core of what most individual economists seem to have understood as monetary theory. While the quantity theory was its most conspicuous component, monetary theory included more than the quantity theory. Disagreements centered in part on different versions of the quantity theory using different elements of monetary theory. Ralph Hawtrey’s pure monetary theory of the business cycle had widespread impact for many years. Dennis Robertson, Irving Fisher, John H. Williams, Alfred Marshall, and pre-General Theory John Maynard Keynes, among others, were more conspicuous than any Chicagoan — with the exception of James Laurence Laughlin, who opposed the quantity theory.

It took centuries for the Fisherian and Cambridge versions of the quantity theory to become increasingly the analytical norm. Neither version emerged fully grown. When velocity of circulation (V) is used, attention is drawn to such technical matters as the facility with which the banking system transfers balances between accounts. When 1/K is substituted for V in Fisher’s version, it both resulted from and reinforced attention to the reasons for holding money. What looked to some to involve only a mathematical change, for others now meant that attention was directed to the reasons why people might want to hold money. What we now call real balances (or real balance effect) or liquidity preference was long appreciated and treated as hoarding.

The money economy could be examined in pure abstract terms, independent of monetary, banking and other financial institutions, or with an emphasis on the institutions that helped form and operated through the money economy. Significant disagreements existed as to the nature and substance of fundamental monetary and other macroeconomic processes, the nature and origin of actual monetary and macroeconomic problems, and the solutions to those problems. Considerable confusion results from some economists’ claims that their agenda for government monetary/macroeconomic policy constitutes non-interventionism whereas all other agendas are interventionist.

Major controversies were waged over what is money, the monetary standard, the role of reserves, what commercial banks do, the nature and role of a central bank; fractional reserves and the money multiplier; the Cambridge cash-balance approach, Wicksell’s monetary theory, and so on.

Some work postulated the economy to be fundamentally stable (e.g., through great weight given to Say’s Law); others postulated particular combinations of quantity-theory and business-cycle models. Changes in M could be deemed to affect only changes in P and nominal Y (i.e., T). Changes in Y (or T) could be seen as leading to changes in M and thence in P; or changes in Y (or T) could be seen as leading to changes in P and thence in M. Different supplementary assumptions might lead to changes in the direction of flows of causation or influence. Especially critical was whether an increase in Y (or T) was possible: whereas an increase in M and thence P could lead to an increase in Y (or T) at less than full employment, at full employment an engineered increase in M could not lead to an increase in real Y (or real T).

Much work seemed directly or indirectly influenced by monetary and banking arrangements existing within some form of gold standard. A monetary system predicated upon gold meant that changes in either gold or money meant a change in the other and in the price level. Currency and credit could be treated differently (as was done by Fisher, for example), influenced by differences in view of specie, paper and bank balances.

The relation of reserves to M could vary, as could the money multiplier, reasons for holding money or spending on consumer and/or capital goods, the respective roles of commercial banks and central banks (including targets), the relation of interest rates to the quantity theory variables, neutral versus non-neutral money, and so on.

Friedmanian monetarism — to the extent it can be meaningfully generalized — proposed that the private sector is stable, or would be stable in the absence of monetary and fiscal policy; that changes in the supply of money, vis-a-vis a stable demand for money (expectable in a stable economy) lead to changes in the interest rate and, especially, the price level; that changes in the supply of money generate changes in spending; that prices are generally flexible; and that vis-a-vis all other factors only money matters or money matters most (hard versus soft monetarism). The Keynesian fiscalist alternative — to the extent it too can be meaningfully generalized — proposes that the private sector is unstable, and that government can reinforce this instability, introduce its own instability, or counter instability; that changes in spending are governed by more than changes in the supply of money; that changes in the supply of money are the consequence, not the cause, of changes in spending — in part, the supply of money is a function of the demand for money; prices are generally inflexible; inflation is largely or typically a function of aggregate demand increasing beyond the full employment level; that increases in the supply of money can generate inflation but changes in the supply of money are not the critical factor governing changes in spending; that price-level instability is not the only monetary/macroeconomic problem, because full employment is not guaranteed and the supply of money is key to neither the price level nor the level of real income.

In addition, the two schools — monetarism and fiscalism — identify different transmission processes applicable to changes in the supply of money leading to increased spending. The fiscalist argues that increases in the supply of money are endogenous, resulting from increases in the demand for money by borrowers in order to spend more, and that the increases in the supply of money limit increases in interest rates (generated by the increased demand for money) and thereby increases investment and income. The monetarist argues that increases in the supply of money are exogenous (generated by the central bank), leading to excess money balances which leads to greater spending, to return monetary balances to desired levels. The differences turn on whether the increases in the supply of money are endogenous or exogenous, whether the increased supply of money is felt through the lowering of the interest rate or the creation of excess balances, and whether a stable economy and a stable demand for money is a suitable or a utopian premise.

Furthermore, modeling the demand for money is no simple matter. Even putting aside (and there is no conclusive reason to do so) the fiscalist-Keynesian model of transaction, speculative and precautionary motives, the monetarist demand for money has been modeled differently by different people and even by Friedman himself. The demand for money most generally is said to be a function of permanent income, wealth, price level, expected rate of inflation, and liquidity preference; more narrowing, it is a function of permanent income, wealth, and price level, all felt by Friedman to be relatively stable in the short run (i.e., if the economy is left to run well on its own), plus the interest rate.

Anyone not permanently wedded to either monetarism or fiscalism likely might consider a much more complex interplay of monetary and spending variables and relationships, including structural and expectational factors. Keynesian fiscalism is likely more capable of encompassing a wider range of variables than is the quantity theory. A major point, however, is that there are a multitude of possible complex interplays of all such variables, relationships and factors. An even more important general point is that all of the foregoing constitutes the social construction of economic theory. The argument over the content of the Chicago oral tradition is part of that process. Only in part is the argument a controversy about the actual economy. It is primarily, albeit not solely, a quest for a theory with which to successfully challenge Keynes and fiscalist economics and its policies. In very large part, the argument is about the control of government policy. It is the quest to define and then to enlist a Huttian custom-thought in the service of a Huttian power-thought. The quest for power and control over policy thus drives economic theory (a quest that pervades Friedman’s work; see Samuels 2000; Leeson 2000a and 2003).

The question thus arises as to whether the quantity theory — in whatever form — is itself (1) a definition of economic reality, (2) a tool of analysis with which to investigate economic reality or (3) an instrument of rhetoric with which to mobilize and manipulate political psychology. For example, Leeson says that James W. Angell (who taught Friedman monetary theory at Columbia) “used the quantity theory to advance the proposition that the principal cause of unemployment was ‘excessive variations in the volume of bank credit.’ Angell also prefaced his analysis with a statement about his preference for ‘planned economies …'” (vol. 1, p. 290). Economists of my generation will recall how Samuelson and Friedman, in their televised debates in the 1960s, each invoked aggregate demand and the supply of money; but Samuelson had changes in aggregate spending drive changes in the supply of money, whereas Friedman had changes in the supply of money drive changes in aggregate spending. More is at stake than a conflict about direction of causal flow, just as when advocates of both under-consumption and over-investment theories of the business cycle pointed to the same data to prove their case: unsold goods.

Perusal of several standard reference works confirms the foregoing argument that the quantity theory is not something given but a matter of social construction, a work in progress, and thus characterized by multiple specifications and interpretations. The entry in the Elgar Companion to Classical Economics indeed opens with the caution One of the conclusions drawn by Hugo Hegeland … from his thoroughgoing study of the historical development and interpretation of the quantity theory of money was that “the interpretation of the quantity theory shows almost as many variations as the number of its interpreters.” This assertion is hardly an exaggeration and even after half a century of further intensive research in this field it is probably as valid now as then. … the theory is like a chameleon. From the outset writers on the subject have understood [the] quantity theory of money to mean sometimes very different things …” (Rieter 1998, p. 230)

Why should the Chicago tradition, oral or otherwise, be different?

The opening of the entry in the Penguin Dictionary of Economics asserts that the theory states the relationship between the quantity of money and the price level. The entry goes on to mark the importance of what is or is not assumed, and says of Friedman that the theories of the demand for money, “based on a quantity theory of money approach, do not differ a great deal from the theories based on the Keynesian framework” (Bannock, Baxter and Rees 1972, p. 339). Is the Chicago tradition, a la Friedman, different (from Keynesian treatments)?

The Routledge Dictionary of Economics has Friedman reviving “interest in the [quantity] theory by expounding it as a theory of demand for real balances” (Rutherford 1995, p. 379). The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics has the theory be one of the demand for money, saying that it “formed the most important component of macroeconomic analysis before Keynes’ General Theory …” (Pearce 1992, p. 356).

A careful reading of all the cited reference works will reveal different positions on whether full employment is an assumption or a conclusion, what else has to be assumed, and so on.

At least one reference work indicates how far the rationality assumption has come in monetary theory: “The underlying premise of the basic quantity theory is that no rational person holds money idle, for it produces nothing and yields no satisfaction,” adding some pages later, “that is, people demand money only for transaction purposes” (Johnson, Ley and Cate 1997, pp. 518, 525). These authors also write that “In the area of policy it would be easy to exaggerate the differences between the Keynesian and monetarist positions. … However, in general, the notion of policy ineffectiveness as elaborated and expanded over the past 30 years by Friedman and others may represent the monetarists’ greatest challenge to the Keynesian heritage. For good or ill, it is an opinion which has come to enjoy considerable support. Moreover, whether monetarism and the modified quantity theory represents a theory of money at all, or a monetary theory of trade and the business cycle, is an open question, one that in part depends on one’s macroeconomic perspective, of which they are certainly a number in fashion” (idem, p. 525). The Chicago tradition, oral or otherwise, is not alone in its attitude of pushing its perspective.

This book must be read, therefore, with cognizance of its elusive background. If a reader is tempted to agree with some statement made by an author included in Leeson’s collection, that reader must ask, on what narrowing premise(s) does this statement rest? The hermeneutic circle is involved between orienting perspective and conclusionary position. However, I am also convinced that my stricture about the hermeneutic circle is and must be self-referential.

IV. A Contribution to the Resolution of the Dispute

Mints was not the only instructor in Economics 330. In volume 23-C (2005) of Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, I am publishing F. Taylor Ostrander’s notes from Charles O. Hardy’s course in Economics 330 given in 1933-34, the next academic year following Friedman’s enrollment in Mints’s course. The notes indicate that Hardy discussed the work of Hawtrey, Frederic Benham, Fisher, Keynes and Laughlin and suggest that the demand for money was part of the course but by no means as central as the notion of an oral tradition centering on the demand for money would have it be.

At the time Hardy taught the course taken by Ostrander during 1933-34, Friedman was a fellow student, and monetary economics was represented by Melchior Palyi and Lloyd Mints as well as Simon, Viner and Knight, in addition to Hardy. Hardy was clearly a leading student of monetary policy. Though apparently not regarded as a leading monetary theorist, he evidently knew his theory, as he easily grounded policy in theory and was respected for his contributions to policy analysis.[1] Each of the Chicago economists specializing, at least in part, in monetary economics went his own way, concentrating on some combination of what interested them and what they considered important. Peering over all their shoulders was the well-known anti-quantity theory orientation of the long-time chair of the Department of Economics, Laughlin.

Among Ostrander’s notes are the following statements:

  • The quantity theory is a truism …
  • For Fisher — V was fixed, any change in M forces a corresponding change in P.
  • T being unchanged — the habits of the people with respect to the money they will hold being unchanged — the Keynes formula is convertible into the Fisher formula.
  • Hardy has a preference for a commodity standard, but can not find a suitable commodity. – Even such a commodity theory would not invalidate the Quantity Theory. – Laughlin’s doctrine is essentially that of the 19th century English “Banking School;” the Quantity Theory is that of the “Currency School.”

The following are Ostrander’s notes bearing on the demand for money:

Problem of the Value of Money

  • Money defined by means of its functions – Classical theory emphasized medium of exchange — brings up turnover. But if exchange were always instantaneous, there would not be much need for money — it is not instantaneous. * Thus the function of money as a store of value. – Suspended purchasing power. – Where the real demand for money comes from. * The classical approach does not allow of any good connection between value theory and monetary theory. – Distinction between this use of money and hoarding is only one of degree. [In margin: “?”]

Big changes in prices over short periods are never the result of changes in the supply of money or the supply of goods — but of changes in the demand for money (or goods).

The prospect of a decline in value of money does not of itself overcome the desirability of money as a liquid factor in unsettled conditions. * Liquidity attained by holding goods — expecting price rise — attained by holding money — expecting price fall. – Why is it that people are still speculating on a price fall? The issue is whether the strongest government in the world is strong enough to devaluate its own currency. * Governments can raise prices by issuing greenbacks or by issuing bonds. – [Greenbacks] may be held as an investment — hoarded – no change in prices. – Bonds may be held as investment-no change in prices. – I.e., both bonds or money may be spent, and may be held as investment — only difference between gold and bonds is one of degree.

- Keynes assumes hoards to be unchanged if the demand schedule for hoarding remains unchanged. (Hardy, Hayek, Robertson had assumed the quantity of hoards to be unchanged.) – Thus there is a change in velocity.

This is Wicksell’s theory. Keynes enlarges it, saying it would be true only in a barter economy. In a monetary economy, there are 3 variables. The willingness to save, the willingness to borrow to produce new capital, the relative attractiveness, as a store of value, of monetary funds and of other investments. * Savings made by purchase of new securities, or hoarding. * Investment made by borrowing from investors, or drawing on investors’ hoards. – Equilibrium requires I = S, also — demand for cash balances to be in equilibrium to [sic: with] demand for securities.

Economics 330 was not the only monetary course given at Chicago. Taylor Ostrander also took Economics 332, Monetary Theory, from Melchior Palyi during his year in residence at Chicago. His notes from the class are published in Archival Supplement 23-B (2005). Among conclusions stated in my introductory comments are these: One facet of the lectures is Palyi’s general attitude toward the quantity theory, indeed substantially all monetary theory, as a theory of control. The aspect of quantity theory discussion that loomed so large, namely, automaticity, especially after World War Two, when the quantity theory (properly applied) was lauded as the non-interventionist alternative to Keynesian fiscal and monetary policy, is subdued, but not altogether absent.

Another is the evident variety of ways in which the quantity theory was operationalized, i.e., how M, V, and T were conceptualized and handled. This also contrasts somewhat with post-War usage, when the policy choices, hence exercise of control, latent in the different versions would have been conspicuous — though eclipsed by the lauded automaticity, even though conservatives like Frank Knight pointed out the inevitable non-automatic, non-rule, elements of administering the quantity theory.

Among other things we read that the quantity theory was * A form of approach to supply such as set forth by Bodin and Davenant. * Value of money not a function of demand, but of factors such as velocity, interest rate, or, if ruled by demand, then demand is ruled by something else.

More recently came * Marshall, Fisher [indecipherable words] – Renewed the old control approach, and united it with the Neo-Nominalist approach. – Then came in Keynes, Robertson, Pigou, Fisher. * Velocity stressed — (l’enfant terrible of previous monetary theory) becomes center of interest. – Reformulation of quantity theory in light of Velocity. – Dozens of reformulations due to differ concepts of velocity. – Changes in it, measurement, causes. * Does velocity have a life of its own — or is it a function of other things, or a constant. * Most difficult to approach from statistical, descriptive or theoretical points of view.

Earlier * The old quantity theory approach looked to money and goods (asked or assumed which is variable which is independent). * The new quantity theory looks to the ratio of savings and investment. – First appeared in a paper of Jevons, in [18]70’s.

Generally, Two types of Quantity Theory: (1) Mere functional relationship; algebraic * A formal expression for the demand for money (Pigou). * On one side is money, on the other side is the physical aspect — no causal explanation. [Single vertical line alongside in margin from (1) to here] – Banking School — there can not be an excess or deficiency of money. Price level is influenced by physical side only. (2) An explanation of the cause of exchange.

On the demand for money, we find the following:

The demand for money. * The “Banking School” of Thought — but underlies the “Currency School” too — the difference between them is on another line. * The velocity of circulation is a passive factor, or a non-changing factor. * Cost of production theory of value of metals, and of money generally. * In case of paper money, it substitutes some psychological factor for quantity — or considers quantitative changes a result of psychology. * Policy of this approach is “sound banking based on commercial paper” –“automatic control.”

This approach is more developed by businessmen than by scientists. * Men of not-systematic methods, bankers. – Tooke — descriptive, not abstract. – Adolph Wagner (Germany) – Laughlin (U.S.) — never tried to be systematic. [“!” to left of name]

This approach became that of the 19th century up to the War. * In spite of Marshall and others. * Bankers and Central Bankers wouldn’t listen to any others. * Keynes (Indian Monetary Policy — 1912) * Robertson (Industrial Fluctuation, 1915) [Bracket connects the two lines, Keynes and Robertson, with arrow pointing to next line.] – Both, at this early date, had tendencies more to the anti-quantitative than to quantitative approach. – Mill — could approach the transfer problem from an entirely different point of view from his approach to bank credit — foolish.

Writing about the Banking School, * Money a matter of quantity which can be regulated by control of its quantity by issue. – By affecting demand for money by: – Discount rate – Open market operations – Public works (governments).

As for Adam Smith, * Implies (by not discussing it) a constant elasticity of demand for money.

We also read * In the single country, value of money is based on interaction of supply of and demand for money.

There is more but altogether what is shown (1) indicates more or less conventional attention to the quantity theory as the core of monetary theory and (2) does not indicate a distinctive Chicago approach centering on the demand for money, a claim no one now seems to be making. The earlier negative position of Laughlin has fallen prey to the selective memory of any oral tradition (Friedman wrote the entry on Laughlin for The New Palgrave). Laughlin, who opposed the quantity theory, was chair of the Department of Economics for many years and was a conspicuous person in the profession. Any complete rendition of Chicago “tradition” presumably would have to include his anti-quantity theory position. Perhaps he was an embarrassment treated largely in silence. Mints may or may not deal with his view; Palyi seems to deal with it only in passing. And Friedman seems not to, as well. He is too busy inventing what he wants that tradition to be.

In partial summary, therefore, Leeson is correct that no oral tradition existed at Chicago by 1932-33 with the substance initially identified by Friedman. If one clearly existed (and it is not certain that one did), it likely was different from and more complex, and likely more ambiguous, than what Friedman proposed. And surely the conversation of one year’s graduate students, by itself, is no “oral tradition.” As Leeson shows, they most certainly did not all agree on issues, though this was the framework that they, and Mints, apparently employed to inform their arguments. Graduate students discussed “macroeconomic” issues using a framework that was in some ways similar to Friedman’s 1956 restatement. Friedman’s assertion only has “some validity” if “intense student discussion is admissible as an ‘oral tradition’…” Friedman’s assertion has more validity than Patinkin gave it credit for, but calling it a “tradition” vastly overstates the case (see Leeson 2000b). Both Friedman and Patinkin exaggerated their case. Friedman was a polemicist who sought influence; Patinkin was an historian whose framework was losing influence. There was an element of justification for Friedman’s assertion — he had not invented it in the 1950s, as some detractors suggested. “Traditions” are potent rhetorical devices, and Friedman sought to make the most of this rhetorical device to serve his counter-revolution.


1. Robert Dimand comments in re Hardy as follows: “With regard to F. Taylor Ostrander’s notes on Charles O. Hardy’s lectures in Economics 330 (graduate money and banking) in 1933-34, I suspect that Hardy (whose maintained a Chicago connection even though he was primarily at Brookings) was central to bringing Keynes’s Treatise on Money into Chicago monetary economics. Hardy reviewed the first volume of Keynes (1930) in AER (1931) and wrote a review-article in JPE (1931) about the second volume. Hardy was a particularly enthusiastic and perceptive reviewer of TM (perceptive enough that his enthusiasm did not extend to the “fundamental equations”), so if demand for money entered Chicago monetary economics from TM, Hardy’s lectures may well have been the conduit. In addition, Keynes had expounded the central message of TM at the University of Chicago in three Harris Foundation Lectures on “Economic Analysis of Unemployment” in May and June 1931.Chicago was not isolated from such British developments: Sir William Beveridge presented what became Part II of his Unemployment: A Problem of Industry, 1909 and 1930 (1930) as a series of lectures at the University of Chicago in autumn 1929.”

Dimand continues, saying, “Another stimulus at that time would have been Irving Fisher’s Theory of Interest (1930). Hardy’s review of TM chided Keynes for misunderstanding Fisher’s real/nominal interest distinction, and Frank Knight’s 1931 JPE review-article shows that Fisher (1930) received attention at Chicago (although Knight concentrated on Fisher’s real rate analysis). McCallum and Goodfriend, in their New Palgrave article on money demand, identify (as Patinkin did) Fisher (1930, p. 216) as the first unambiguously correct statement of the marginal opportunity cost of holding money.” (Dimand to Samuels, January 13, 2005)


Graham Bannock, R. E. Baxter, and R. Rees, 1972. The Penguin Dictionary of Economics, Hamondsworth, pp. 338-9.

L.E. Johnson, Robert D. Ley, and Tom Cate, 1997. “Quantity Theory of Money,” in Thomas Cate, Geoff Harcourt, and David C. Colander, editors, An Encyclopedia of Keynesian Economics, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 517-526.

Robert Leeson, 2000a. The Eclipse of Keynesianism: The Political Economy of the Chicago Counter-Revolution, New York: Palgrave.

Robert Leeson, 2000b. “Patinkin, Johnson, and the Shadow of Friedman,” History of Political Economy 32, no. 4, pp. 733-763.

Robert Leeson, 2003. Ideology and the International Economy: The Decline and Fall of Bretton Woods, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

David W. Pearce, editor, 1992. The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 356-7.

Heinz Rieter, 1998. “Quantity Theory of Money,” in Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori, editors, The Elgar Companion to Classical Economics, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. Volume 2, pp. 239-248.

Donald Rutherford, 1995. Routledge Dictionary of Economics, London: Routledge, p. 379.

Warren J. Samuels, 2000. Review of Milton and Rose D. Friedman, Two Lucky People: Memoirs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 18A, 2000, pp. 241-252.

Warren J. Samuels is Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University. He is working on the use of the concept of the Invisible Hand in economics. He acknowledges with thanks comments on an earlier draft by Robert Dimand and Robert Leeson.

Subject(s):History of Economic Thought; Methodology
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII