Money, asset prices and economic activity
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How does money influence the economy? More exactly, how do changes in the level (or the rate of growth) of the quantity of money affect the values of key macroeconomic variables such as aggregate demand and the price level? As these are straightforward questions which have been asked for over 400 years, economic theory ought by now to have given some reasonably definitive answers. But that is far from the case. Most economists agree with the proposition that in the long run inflation is ‘a monetary phenomenon’, in the sense that it is associated with faster increases in the quantity of money than in the quantity of goods and services. But they disagree about almost everything else in monetary economics, with particular uncertainty about the so-called ‘transmission mechanism’. The purpose of this essay is to describe key aspects of the transmission mechanism between money and the UK economy in the business cycles between the late 1950s and today, and in particular in the two pronounced boom–bust cycles in the early 1970s and the late 1980s. Heavy emphasis will be placed on the importance of the quantity of money, broadly defined to include most bank deposits, in asset price determination. However, in order better to locate the analysis in the wider debates, a discussion of the origins of certain key motivating ideas is necessary.
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