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Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History Paperback – March 31, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the Micronesian Yap islands' 12-foot stone "coins" to today's paper currencies backed only by fiat, Nobel-laureate economist Friedman ( Free to Choose ) here examines anomalies of world monetary history, including the effect of successive 19th-century gold ore discoveries and refining improvements on U.S. and British tender. He traces American currency's long, contentious gold-silver bimetalist saga, marked by the so-called Congressional coinage "crime of 1873" and ending with William Jennings Bryan's unsuccessful "Cross of Gold" presidential campaign in 1896. Friedman cites harsh lessons from postwar hyperinflation in many countries and declares that Roosevelt's 1933 silver-buying program may have skewed China's silver-based economy toward eventual communism. Uncontrolled money growth is the cause of inflation, the author stresses, and only monetary reform, despite undesirable side effects like unemployment, can cure it. Abstruse, theoretical and chiefly for the initiate, the book recycles parts of earlier works by Friedman, who himself suggests here that the general reader might wish to skip a particularly challenging chapter.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this latest work, Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedman examines the role of money backed by gold and silver and our current world of fiat backed by faith. After an initial restatement of the essence of his monetary views, Friedman examines the historical impact of bimetallism in the United States and elsewhere. He devotes the remainder of the book to the principles and problems of modern money unlinked to any commodity. Often iconoclastic yet always persuasive, whatever Friedman has to say about money should always be read. Highly recommended for college and university libraries.
- Richard C. Schiming, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (March 31, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015661930X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156619301
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Milton Friedman is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the Paul Snowden Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. He has written a number of books, including two with his wife, Rose D. Friedman---the bestselling Free to Choose and Two Lucky People: Memoirs, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on March 10, 2004
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.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Denis Benchimol Minev on February 9, 2005
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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Justin E. Williams on October 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
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."
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