Gibson's Paradox and the Gold Standard

48 Pages Posted: 3 May 2004 Last revised: 7 Aug 2010

See all articles by Robert Barsky

Robert Barsky

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lawrence H. Summers

Harvard University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: August 1985

Abstract

This paper provides a new explanation for Gibson's Paradox -- the observation that the price level and the nominal interest rate were positively correlated over long periods of economic history. We explain this phenomenon interms of the fundamental workings of a gold standard. Under a gold standard, the price level is the reciprocal of the real price of gold. Because gold is adurable asset, its relative price is systematically affected by fluctuations inthe real productivity of capital, which also determine real interest rates. Our resolution of the Gibson Paradox seems more satisfactory than previous hypotheses. It explains why the paradox applied to real as well as nominal rates of return, its coincidence with the gold standard period, and the co-movement of interest rates, prices, and the stock of monetary gold during the gold standard period. Empirical evidence using contemporary data on gold prices and real interest rates supports our theory.

Suggested Citation

Barsky, Robert B. and Summers, Lawrence H., Gibson's Paradox and the Gold Standard (August 1985). NBER Working Paper No. w1680. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=283338

Robert B. Barsky (Contact Author)

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

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University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Lawrence H. Summers

Harvard University ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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