James Laurence Laughlin

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This article is about the economist. For the poet, see James Laughlin.

James Laurence Laughlin (April 2, 1850 – November 28, 1933) was an American economist who helped to found the Federal Reserve System.

Born in Deerfield, Ohio, Laughlin received his PhD from Harvard University. His thesis regarded "Anglo-Saxon Legal Procedure". A conservative, he generally subscribed to the economic theories of John Stuart Mill and opposed bimetallism. He taught in Boston for five years, at Cornell for two years, and then became the department-head of the new economics department at the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1916. Notably, he appointed many economists with whom he avidly disagreed, such as Thorstein Veblen, to high positions at the university. He was a member of the Indianapolis Monetary Commission, organized in 1897, and prepared its report, one of the important documents in the history of American banking and monetary reform.New International Encyclopedia In 1906 he lectured, by invitation, in Berlin, and in 1909 he served as delegate to the Pan-American Scientific Congress at Santiago, Chile. From 1911 to 1913 he was chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Citizens League for the Promotion of a Sound Banking System. Under his leadership the league promoted banking reform in the United States.

In addition to teaching, he edited the Journal of Political Economy from 1892 to 1933, but refused to become a member of the American Economic Association because of differences in philosophy. He advised various state and national governments on economic matters, including overhauling the monetary system of Santo Domingo. He prepared an abridgment of Mill's Political Economy (1884) and wrote many important books on macroeconomics and monetary policy.


  • The Study of Political Economy (1885)
  • History of Bimetallism in the United States (1886)
  • Elements of Political Economy (1887; revised edition, 1902)
  • Facts about Money (1895)
  • Principles of Money (1903)
  • Reciprocity (1903), with H. P. Willis
  • Lectures on Commerce (1904)
  • Industrial America (1906)
  • Latter Day Problems (1909)
  • Banking Reform (1912)
  • Money and Prices (1919)

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