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Why don't we have that for free banking?

Posted By Kurt Schuler On April 12, 2014 @ 5:49 am In Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In the 1990s I wrote extensively on currency boards with Steve H. Hanke [1] of Johns Hopkins University. The subject had a vogue among economists for several years, but faded after the crash of Argentina's "convertibility" system in late 2001 and early 2002 (which I analyzed here [2]).  Steve and I remain interested in currency boards. With Nicholas Krus, at the time an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, we conceived the idea of a Digital Archive on Currency Boards [3]. Nick did the most work to make it a reality, spending many hours photographing source material in libraries in Washington DC, London, and even in Canberra during a semester as an exchange student there. A number of Steve's other students also worked on the archive, for which I thank them.

The archive collects the annual reports of currency boards, financial statements in government gazettes, and other important historical sources of material. There is also a companion working paper series [4], not limited to currency boards, from the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins. (The institute's mouthful of a name reflects that it ranges over the interests of its founders Hanke and Louis Galambos, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins who has written on everything from the Eisenhower presidency to the drug company Merck.) One of the working papers is a guide [5] to the archive that catalogs its contents and documents the applicable copyright law in the countries of publication. Another is a study [6] I did with a former Johns Hopkins undergraduate, Charles Weinberg, on the Paper Currency Department of the Indian government, which existed from 1862-1935 and operated as a quasi currency board for part of that period. Charlie digitized the data [7] from source material that Nick Krus had collected and wrote an analysis. I contributed a history of legislative developments. A forthcoming issue of the Indian Journal of Economics and Business will carry an article that is a shorter version of the working paper. Other working papers have likewise made some digitized data available, and later this year far more digitized data will be released.

It would be desirable to have an analogous  archive on free banking. The task of gathering the source material would be different, because there was no single issuer of currency as there was in most currency board systems. (In a few currency board systems, currency boards issued notes alongside banks. Bank notes were sometimes restricted to larger denominations, giving the currency boards a monopoly of small denominations. The Digital Archive on Currency Boards does not cover the banks in such cases.) Annual reports of banks, financial statements published in government gazettes or commercial newspapers, reports of government bank inspectors, and other sources exist in great quantity, waiting to be collected and organized. As with the material on currency boards, most of it is out of copyright and therefore could be posted on the Internet. Material remaining under copyright could still be collected for individual use, then posted as copyright expires. This site would be one possibility for the location of the archive. I lack the time to  undertake such a task, which I think would need to be a cooperative undertaking among widely scattered scholars rather than a project that owes most of its content to just one person. A spontaneous order awaits a catalyst. Is somebody out there equal to the challenge?


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1 Comment To "Why don't we have that for free banking?"

#1 Comment By Jeff Haymond On April 15, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

Sorry...I'm a slacking free rider (as well as not suited for this task). But I wish you well. Thx for leading this blog


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URL to article: http://www.freebanking.org/2014/04/12/why-dont-we-have-that-for-free-banking/

URLs in this post:

[1] Steve H. Hanke: http://folio.jhu.edu/faculty/Steve%20H._Hanke

[2] here: http://www.hacer.org/pdf/Schuler.pdf

[3] Digital Archive on Currency Boards: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/digitalarchive/

[4] working paper series: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/economics/index.html

[5] guide: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/economics/Guide_to_the_Digital_Archive_on_Currency_Boards2-9%2030%202013.pdf

[6] study: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/economics/Indias_Paper_Currency_DepartmentWorkingPaper.pdf

[7] data: http://krieger.jhu.edu/iae/economics/Copy%20of%20India_Spreadsheet_2013%2012%2009.xlsx

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