Hayek on sensible monetary policy

By Jerry L. Jordan
Hayek on Sensible Monetary Policy This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the publication of “Road to Serfdom”by Frederick Hayek, as well as the fortieth anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Hayek. Hayek's enduring contributions to our understanding of the “Uses of Knowledge in Society”and characterization of markets as “mutualization of knowledge”are well known. Less well known are Hayek’s views on money, and governments’role in the provision of money. In a collection of “oral history”video tapes of various scholars interviewing Hayek in 1978 (digitized and made available by the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatamala) Hayek described to Professor Axel Leijonhufvud how the writing of “The Constitution of Liberty”led him to return to questions of monetary theory. As one of his inventions (as opposed to discoveries) Hayek told Leijonhufvud about “my new monetary scheme,”in which,

“I have come to the conclusion that it is not sufficient to deprive government of other arbitrary powers, but we can never hope to preserve a free economic order unless you take from government the monopoly of issuing money. So, this forces one back to rethink a good deal about monetary theory and I’m at the moment trying to get back to …the question, ‘is the stabilization of money compatible with its functions?…I became aware that there is no chance of effectively limiting the power of government over the economy except by depriving it (of a monopoly), plus the insight that in the present political order it is impossible for government to conduct a sensible monetary policy.”

Of course, Hayek was speaking at the time of the severe ‘stagflation’of the late 1970s during the presidency of Jimmy Carter when simultaneous high inflation and high unemployment seemed intractable problems. Recent consumer inflation has been low, but so has been economic growth. "Pedal to the metal" monetary policies--known as quantitative easing--have sent asset prices soaring in the so far futile hope that a 'wealth effect' will kick in and boost output and employment (before consumer prices start to soar). It is likely that Hayek would once again be calling for the end of monopoly money.

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Jerry L. Jordan

Jerry L. Jordan is a Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute and an Adjunct Scholar with the Cato Institute. He was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, a member of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, Dean and Professor of Economics at the University of New Mexico, and Chief Economist for two commercial banks. He has also served as Sr. Vice President and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and as a consultant to the Deutsche Bundesbank in Frankfurt, W. Germany.

Jordan earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of California, Los Angeles and his B.A. in Economics at California State University, Northridge. He holds honorary doctorates from Denison University, Capital University and Universidad Francisco Marroquin.