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Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History (Harvest Book)

Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History (Harvest Book) [Kindle Edition]

Milton Friedman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description

Product Description

Friedman makes clear once and for all that no one is immune from monetary economics-that is, from the effects of its theory and its practices. He demonstrates through historical events the mischief that can result from misunderstanding the monetary system. Index.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1601 KB
  • Print Length: 303 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 015661930X
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reprint edition (31 Mar 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003WUYQ6Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,826 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The historical episodes that Friedman includes are not perhaps the most interesting. He does not offer his views, for example, on the Great Depression, the collapse of Bretton Woods or the fallout of Japan's bubble economy. Nevertheless, Friedman is one of the most readable economists particularly when he is discussing his monetarist views. Lively, informative, controversial and entertaining - few economists can match him in this way. Whether you agree or disagree with Friedman this book is a useful one to read because few understand monetary economics better than its author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
144 of 148 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Monetary Thinking 11 Mar 2004
By Omer Belsky - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In his best selling study, Robert L. Heilbroner calls Economists 'The worldly philosophers'. That description certainly captures what Milton Friedman does in this book - he takes the seemingly simple concept of money, the unit of exchange we use daily and rarely reflect upon, and demonstrates how complicated the issues regarding it are.

(As an interesting aside, Heilbroner's original title for his book was 'the money philosophers' - a definition that fits Friedman in this book even better then his chosen title, even if it is too narrow to account for all of economics).
More then half of this collection of essays is about the so-called 'Crime of 1873' - America's decision, following the issuance of fiat money (that is, money irredeemable in specie) during the Civil War, to peg the dollar not to both silver and gold, but to gold alone. This seemingly arcane and academic topic was a major political issue in the 1880s and 90s, climaxing with the nomination of the silver Democrat, William Jennings Bryan to the presidency of the United States in 1896.
As the Unites States, along with most other 19th century nations such as Germany and France, followed Great Britain in adopting the gold standard, the price of gold rose in terms of other resources, so prices went down. Therefore there was a severe deflation causing much unrest and discontent.
The cure to the deflation came not through political or monetary means, however, but because of an invention of a method to extract gold from low grade ore. This increased the supply of gold, lowered its prices. Hence stopping the deflation, and killing the presidential ambitions of William Jennings Bryan.
The rest of the book describes various issues, from FDR's decision to 'help silver' which helped Communism in China instead (by increasing the cost of silver, overvaluing the Chinese currency and thus hurting Chinese exports and undermining the Chinese economy), to the policy of pegging a currency to the dollar (not a good idea as it subjects the country to the whims of the world economy. The policy was a grave failure to Chile and a great success to Israel, due entirely to external changes in the value of the dollar).
The theme of the later parts of the book is undoubtedly inflation. Friedman demonstrates his claim that inflation is "always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" (p.104). Inflation is caused by government increasing the money supply, although one time price increases may be caused by unfortunate outside events (like Arabs reduction of the exportation of oil in the early 1979s).
Although Friedman is well known as an economic right winger, there is nothing in this account that should be displeasing to anyone from the left - Friedman's case is against mismanagement, not for small or big governments. Nor is there any argument about whether government spending should go to the military, to welfare, or to any other cause. Although Friedman's book is filled with stories of the political economy, its moral is politically neutral. Indeed, Friedman clearly discusses how inflation is often used by governments because direct taxation is unpopular (p.205) - can you say "read my lips, no new taxes"?
Furthermore, the economic analysis of some reviewers in Amazon is shaky. Friedman writes "all these adjustments [the negative effects of inflation] are set in motion by changes in the rates of monetary growth and inflation. If monetary growth was high but steady... the economy would adjust to it. ... Such an inflation would do no great harm " (p.222).
Although Friedman does not like inflation, he actually makes a case for it, at least at a low single digit level. Since people are usually sellers of few things and purchasers of many, they are more aware of the increase in the price of the commodity they sell then they are of the increase of general prices, especially when those changes are low. People like to see their income go up, as they feel it is a just reward for their efforts (p. 70).
'Money Mischief' is an interesting, challenging book. Its chapters vary from the extremely technical and difficult, (notably chapter 4, a counter-factual exercise estimating the effect of continuing bimetallism after 1873), to 'pop economics' chapters which are no less enlightening and easier to read.
The book ends with a discussion of the new experiment started in the 1970s - currency which is entirely unredeemable by any kind of good. Earlier economists thought that this was impossible, and would necessarily lead to high inflation, but Friedman is optimistic - he believes that aware and well informed public and decision makers can pressure the government against unduly increasing the money supply. Thus, widespread understanding of economics is the real cure for inflation.
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introdcution to the importance of monetary policy 8 Dec 2002
By Craig Matteson - Published on
I must confess of my unbounded admiration for Milton Friedman. He has contributed so much to our understanding of the effects of monetary policy and has been such a tireless advocate for freedom that I must admit I am not impartial in any way, so readers beware.
This book examines 10 different episodes in world history in which seemingly trivial policy choices towards money had profound, unexpected, and unforeseen consequences (usually very bad). They make enjoyable reading and are most educational.
The discussions are not all that technical and, to me, sparkle with wit and insight. This book can serve as a great introduction to how gold and silver money was abused, the effect that minting rights can have, how technology changes in mining precious metals caused a crisis of devaluation, what the heck bimetallism is and what the issues around it were (are), and most important, the risks of the kind of money we have (fiat money - because it is not tied explicitly to some kind of commodity and is therefore at the risk of somebody running the printing press too much). This is all great stuff. Enjoy!
There are several useful graphs and tables. Also, a reference list in the back can act as a bibliography for further reading.
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
By Denis Benchimol Minev - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many of Milton Friedman's previous books, especially "Free to Choose" are aimed at a popular audience, supporting the cause for freedom in many different aspects of society. With it, this book shares the brilliance and throughness of thought employed by Friedman, perhaps the most well known (if not the best) economist of the 2nd half of the 20th century.

In "Money Mischief" Friedman enters the realm of monetary economics, briefly telling a history of the different systems that have been employed through history for value conservation. Aside from perhpas the first 100 pages, the rest of the book relies on some notion of monetary economics and international trade and finance. Most of the book is devoted to the study of the old metallic or bimetallic standards and the early days of the fiat money system (the one most used today). An experienced economist will recognize the brilliance of the arguments linkings seemingly unrelated events such as the US elections in 1892 and the fall of the Chiang Kai-shek government in China (believe me, Friedman convinced me they were directly linked).

For a non-economist, the first one hundred pages may tell a brief history of money, so if that is your interest, stop there. Experienced economists will definitely enjoy the suddle linkages of events, such as deflations and the California gold rush and the development of the cyanide process for extracting gold. The book is aimed at a more knowledgeable crowd; with such an aim, it achieves its objective brilliantly.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Milton on Money 8 Oct 2009
By Justin E. Williams - Published on
Since the passing of Milton Friedman, I have worried that his pro-Capitalistic rhetoric and all he was able to achieve would melt away. Of course, it is too soon to be able to understand whether this will happen or not. To continue my education from the great Milton Friedman, I read "Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History" by him.

For those of you who wish that they took a class in macroeconomics in college or maybe are just interested in money this is a must read. For all others, they may find it hard to get through.

Friedman does a great job of covering topics like the Gold Standard, the Silver Standard/movement, bimetallism, the change to a fiat currency, pegging currencies, and inflation. When I studied macroeconomics, I felt like much of my education in money was incomplete. This book completed it. This book can get overly technical for the non-economist at times but learning about monetary systems is technical within itself.

I highly recommend this book and the continuing education of what Dr. Friedman has done for the current state of economic policy in the world. The one topic that Friedman covers that I think is important is the Silver movement. Most people learn about this movement in high school and the Wizard of Oz is based off of it.

My absolute favorite quote from the book was,

"As a result, the U.S. silver purchase program must be regarded as having contributed, if perhaps only modestly, to the success of the communist revolution in China."
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book! 2 Jan 2000
By David Maxwell - Published on
I am not an economist. This book opened my eyes to how the government influences the economic progress of us all through money supply. It is easy to read and understand. I highly recommend it to any lay people with an interest in why we are subject to economic catastrophies. I would be very interested in other readers views on this book, so please email me at .
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Before 1971, every major currency from time immemorial had been linked directly or indirectly to a commodity. &quote;
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money is whatever is generally accepted in exchange for goods and services—accepted not as an object to be consumed but as an object that represents a temporary abode of purchasing power to be used for buying still other goods and services. &quote;
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It takes very high rates of inflation—rates well up in double digits that persist for years—before people will stop using the money that is so obviously inflating. &quote;
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