Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 68: Edwin Walter Kemmerer (1875–1945)
Edwin Walter Kemmerer was an American economist born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1899, he obtained his Master’s degree in economics at Wesleyan University with Phi Beta Kappa honours. He also joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and during a fraternity meeting he met Rachel Dickele, who would become his wife two years later. While Kemmerer was working on his Master’s degree in economics (1895–99) the debates about money between Republicans and Democrats were at the centre of public life. In 1896, the presidential campaign between William McKinley (Republican) and William Jennings Bryan (Democrat) centred on the monetary question. The Democrats defended bimetallism while the Republicans along with “gold-Democrats” – a minority of Democrats who defended the gold standard – proposed the definitive adoption of the gold standard (GS). Kemmerer became interested in the campaign debates and studied the principle works of the protagonists – Harvey (Coin’s Financial School, 1894) and Laughlin (Facts about Money, 1895, and Coin’s Financial Fool). Kemmerer found himself near the heart of the Republican Party and became an ardent defender of the GS, so, he decided to take it upon himself to convert the Democrats to monometallism. In 1899 Kemmerer started a PhD at Cornell University. He chose to work on the quantity theory of money (QTM), a choice that would be pivotal for his professional future: Kemmerer was a quantity theorist, but also a defender of gold-monometallism, putting him at odds with several other quantity theorists who favoured bimetallism. An Economist in a Class of his Own...
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