Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Project: Monetary History, Populism, and Technological Unemployment

I just got the paperwork through for a new project I'll be working on this fall - I'll be writing short articles for an upcoming volume on American populism. I'll be reading this stuff, so it may show up in my posting too.

There will be heavy emphasis on the late nineteenth century populist movement, but all varieties of populism will be covered - from the colonial period to the modern Tea Party movement.

I'm writing on five topics:

1. The International Monetary Conference
2. "Coin's Financial School"
3. The National Monetary Commission
4. The Quantity Theory of Money, and
5. Technological Unemployment

Working on this will help to fill in my understanding of American monetary history from the 1860s or so to the creation of the Federal Reserve. The first three are going to be fairly historical pieces. I should be able to be more creative with the last two. In my piece on the Quantity Theory of Money I want to relate basic monetary mechanics to the shifting relationship between monetary policy and populism over time. Basic quantity theory arguments were of course originally used to support accomodative monetary policy, and now the same arguments are often used to oppose it in populist circles. I don't think I'll be able to get in too much detail on why that shift occurred, but I think it will be important to note it, especially because I don't think these issues will be on the radar of a lot of the other contributors.

I'll have a lot of room to play with the Technological Unemployment article. The point, for me, is that as a local phenomenon technological unemployment has been very real for certain populations, and it has tied together populist thought from the Luddites to modern concerns with "deindustrialization" in the Reagan years. But we repeatedly find and conclude that it is not a substantial global phenomenon. The total benefits seem to outweigh the total costs pretty decisively. The question is, as a polity how do we sort out the very real costs involved with technological development.

This is a picture I liked from Coin's Financial School:

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