George Selgin

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George Selgin
Selgin speaks at the Ron Paul Fed Lecture Series in 2019
Born1957 (age 66–67)
Academic career
InstitutionThe Cato Institute
FieldMacroeconomics, monetary theory, banking theory, and monetary history
School or
Free banking
formerly Austrian school
(does not self-identify with any school)
Alma materNew York University (PhD) 1986
Drew University (B.A.) 1979
InfluencesFriedman, Hayek, David Laidler, White, Wicksell, Leland Yeager
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

George Selgin (/ˈsɛlɪn/; born February 15, 1957) is an American economist. He is Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus of the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, where he is editor-in-chief of the center's blog, Alt-M,[1] Professor Emeritus of economics at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, and an associate editor of Econ Journal Watch.[2] Selgin formerly taught at George Mason University, the University of Hong Kong, and West Virginia University.


Selgin's research covers a broad range of topics within the field of monetary economics, including monetary history, macroeconomic theory, and the history of monetary thought. He is one of the founders, along with Kevin Dowd and Lawrence H. White, of the Modern Free Banking School,[3] which draws its inspiration from the writings of Friedrich Hayek on denationalization of money and choice in currency.[4] A central claim of the Free Banking School is that the effects of government intervention in monetary systems cannot be properly appreciated except with reference to a theory of monetary laissez-faire, analogous to the theory of free trade that informs the modern understanding of the effects of tariffs and other trade barriers.[5] The free bankers argue that, viewed in light of such a theory, financial crises and business cycles are largely attributable to misguided government interference with freely-evolved and competitive monetary arrangements, including legislation granting central banks exclusive rights to issue paper currency.[6]

Selgin is also known for his advocacy of a "productivity norm" for monetary policy—an ideal according to which the growth-rate of nominal gross domestic product should be such as will allow the (output) price level to decline along with goods' real (unit) costs of production—that is, at a rate opposite the growth rate of total factor productivity.[7] According to Selgin, by preventing mild deflation in response to productivity gains, monetary authorities risk inadvertently fueling unsustainable booms or economic bubbles, setting the stage for consequent busts and recession.[8] Because it requires that aggregate spending grow at a steady rate equal to the trend growth rate of weighted factor input growth, Selgin's ideal amounts to a version of nominal income targeting, which helped to inspire and inform the post-Great Recession movement favoring NGDP targeting.

Selgin is considered a Bitcoin OG ("Original Gangsta"),[9] having taken part in the original cypherpunk mailing list (with Wei Dei and Nick Szabo) that led to Bitcoin's invention, which Hal Finney and Nick Szabo say he helped to inspire.[9] He was one of the first economists to explore the economics of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.[10] He is also an expert on the history and economics of old-fashioned metallic coinage. His book Good Money[11] tells the story of the private minting of coins during Great Britain's Industrial Revolution. He is one of the foremost authorities on Gresham's Law—the oldest of all economic laws concerning money.[12][13]

Since he joined the Cato Institute Selgin has become a leading critic of some of the Federal Reserve's post-crisis policies, including its decision to permanently switch to an ample reserves or "floor" operating system, and its decision to build a "real time" retail payments network to compete with one established by commercial bankers.[14][15] Most recently, he has taken on the growing movement to have the Fed make use of its Quantitative Easing powers, not solely to combat recessions, but as a means for funding ambitious government projects that can bypass Congress's normal appropriations process.[16]

Selgin is the twin brother of author and illustrator Peter Selgin and the half brother of anthropologist Clare Selgin Wolfowitz. His other half-sister, Ann Selgin Levy, is a fabric artist and culinary author. His father, Paul Selgin, was an inventor whose numerous patents include many for optical measuring devices for use in manufacturing.


Published works[edit]


  • The Menace of Fiscal QE (2020). ISBN 978-1-94864-793-9
  • Floored! How a Misguided Fed Experiment Deepened and Prolonged the Great Recession (2018). ISBN 978-1-94864-708-3
  • Less Than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy (2018). ISBN 978-1-94864-710-6
  • Money: Free & Unfree (2017). ISBN 978-1-94442-430-5
  • Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage (2008). ISBN 978-0-472-11631-7.
  • Less Than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy (1997). ISBN 0-255-36402-4.
  • Bank Deregulation and Monetary Order (1996). ISBN 0-415-14056-0.
  • Readings in Money and Banking (1995). ISBN 0-536-58930-5.
  • The Theory of Free Banking: Money Supply under Competitive Note Issue (1988). ISBN 0-8476-7578-5.

Scholarly Articles[edit]


  1. ^ "Alt-M". Alt-M.
  2. ^ "Econ Journal Watch (EJW)". Archived from the original on 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  3. ^ Gedeon, Shirley (1997). "The modern free banking school: a review". Journal of Economic Issues. 31: 209–222. doi:10.1080/00213624.1997.11505898.
  4. ^ Hayek, Friedrich (1976). Denationalisation of Money: The Argument Refined. London: Institute of Economic Affairs. Archived from the original on 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  5. ^ Selgin, George; Lawrence H. White (December 1994). "How would the invisible hand handle money?". Journal of Economic Literature. 32 (4). American Economic Association: 1718–1749. JSTOR 2728792.
  6. ^ E.g., Selgin, George (Fall 1989). "Legal restrictions, financial weakening, and the lender of last resort" (PDF). The Cato Journal. 9 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  7. ^ Selgin, George (Spring–Summer 1990). "Monetary Equilibrium and the Productivity Norm of Price-Level Policy" (PDF). The Cato Journal. 10 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-03-28. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
  8. ^ White, William R. (2006). "Is price stability enough?" (PDF). BIS Working Paper 205. Basel, Switzerland: Bank for International Settlements.
  9. ^ a b Szabo, Nick (2018-07-23). "Dr. Selgin was on the mailing list with Wei Dai and myself where in 1998 cryptocurrency (bit gold, and a bit later b-money) was invented. His description of free banking was very inspirational and informative". @NickSzabo4. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  10. ^ Selgin, George (2015-04-01). "Synthetic commodity money". Journal of Financial Stability. Special Issue: Instead of the Fed: Past and Present Alternatives to the Federal Reserve System. 17: 92–99. doi:10.1016/j.jfs.2014.07.002. ISSN 1572-3089.
  11. ^ Selgin, George (2008). Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press and the Independent Institute. ISBN 978-0-472-11631-7.
  12. ^ "Gresham's Law". EH.Net Encyclopedia. June 9, 2003. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013.
  13. ^ Selgin, George (2018), Battilossi, Stefano; Cassis, Youssef; Yago, Kazuhiko (eds.), "Gresham's Law", Handbook of the History of Money and Currency, Springer, pp. 1–21, doi:10.1007/978-981-10-0622-7_9-1, ISBN 978-981-10-0622-7, S2CID 159020486
  14. ^ Selgin, George (2018-10-22). Floored!: How a Misguided Fed Experiment Deepened and Prolonged the Great Recession. ISBN 978-1948647083.
  15. ^ "Facilitating Faster Payments in the U.S." Cato Institute. 2019-09-25. Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  16. ^ Selgin, George (2020-02-11). The Menace of Fiscal QE. ISBN 978-1948647939.

External links[edit]