‘Money Mischief’ – a major inspiration for ‘monetary thinkers’

I am in the process of surveying a number of “monetary thinkers” about their favourite books on monetary matters. I hope to do a number of posts on the survey results.

I had initially planned only to do one post on the survey, but I can see that there is material for a lot more. So I will likely do a number of posts on the topic in the near future. It is vacation time for the Christensen family – so I am a bit focused on reading books.

Among the monetary thinkers in the survey are George Selgin, David Laidler, Kurt Schuler, Josh Hendrickson, Marcus Nunes, Tobias Straumann, Steve Ambler and Douglas Irwin and many more and more will follow.

Milton Friedman’s “Money Mischief” is short, fun and informative

One of my own absolute favourite books on money is Milton Friedman’s “Money Mischief” from 1992. It is a collection of Friedman articles. Most of the articles are about episodes from monetary history. The book is extremely well-written and generally a very easy read.

Money Mischief is being mentioned as an major inspiration by a number of  the monetary thinkers in my survey. Josh Hendrickson calls Money Mischief “a great overview of money for non-economists and economists alike” and Douglas Irwin calls the book “just fun”. Both Josh and Doug have contributed to my survey and in later posts I will return to some of their other book recommendations.

Money Mischief to a large extent is a inspiration for this blog as I always thought that I wanted to write a blog about different monetary episodes in the spirit of Money Mischief to illustrate my views on monetary issues and I had in fact originally thought naming my blog Money Mischief.

Take for example Chapter 9 in Money Mischief“Chile and Israel: Identical Policies, Opposite Outcomes”. In this Chapter Friedman describes how fixed exchange rate policies was a major success in Israel, but a failure in Chile. In the chapter Friedman once again spells out his general opposition to fixed exchanges, but he also acknowledges that fixed exchange rate regimes might work well for certain countries. Friedman mentions Hong Kong’s currency board as an example of a fairly successful fixed exchange rate regime.

In the chapter he also makes a comment that have been a major inspiration to my own thinking about monetary matters. This is the statement (page 241):

“Never underestimate the role of luck in the fate of individuals and nations”.

I have written numerous blog posts inspired by this comment. See for example:

Never underestimate the importance of luck
The luck of the ‘Scandies’
National stereotyping is not an explanation for boom-bust – it is mostly about luck

And this is exactly what my survey of monetary thinkers is about – books that have inspired them and books that they think should be read by students of economics and money.

The survey has also inspired Kurt Schuler to reproduce his extensive reading list on monetary economics. You can see Kurt’s amazing reading list here.

In the near future I will share more survey results.

This is a picture of my own copy of Money Mischief – did you get a copy yet?

Money Mischief

Leave a comment


  1. I bought the e-book version of “Money Mischief” because you praised it so highly. Thank you very much for that, I found the book both enjoyable and enlightening.

  2. Each episode in the book is enthralling. The part about the Chinese silver deflation is possibly the most important (but forgotten) monetary event of the 20th century, I think. If easier money could have forestalled the Chinese Communists…well who knows but Taiwan sure looks like a pleasant society (not to disparage the Mainlanders, just that they are still suck cleaning up after Mao).

    I also enjoyed the Stone Money of Yap chaper. Nothing tragic happened and I find the whole idea of a colonial administrator marking people’s stone wheels to get paths cleared a charmingly benign way to get things done.

  3. Lars, this is a great idea, and mr. Schulers list will help me a lot since Im always searching for some good recommendations on what to read! Hope other people you sent this e-mail will make a similar list! I also got my copy of “Money Mischief” on kindle, but im thinking of buying a hard copy, somehow its just not the same when its not on the shelf!


  4. I loved the book – I bought the Audible version recently, and it’s been a good companion in my daily commute.

  5. Friedman’s quote on the role of luck is really good. I am a firm believer in luck, and your post inspired me to write a post as to how we might “increase the odds”.

  1. ‘Money Mischief’ – a major inspiration for ‘monetary thinkers’ | Fifth Estate
  2. The books on money that David Laidler would like you to read | The Market Monetarist
  3. The books on money that David Laidler would like you to read | Fifth Estate
  4. Leland Yeager wrote the best monetarist (text)book | The Market Monetarist
  5. Leland Yeager at 90 – happy birthday | The Market Monetarist

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