Northern Illinois University Press

The Monetary Conservative

Jacques Rueff and Twentieth-century Free Market Thought

Christopher S. Chivvis

“A deeply thoughtful, nuanced, and erudite analysis of one of the 20th century’s most profound and principled monetary thinkers. With the renewed global angst over the sustainability of the dollar-based international monetary system, Chivvis’s masterful study of Jacques Rueff could not be more timely.”—Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of Money, Markets, and Sovereignty

“Mr. Chivvis has written an interesting and clear account of the major elements in the thought of the French economist and civil servant Jacques Rueff.”—Harold James, Princeton University

“An interesting, highly readable account of the career of one of Europe’s most important economists. Chivvis lifts the smokescreen of simplicity which has served to obscure the economist’s true contribution to twentieth century economic thought and practice. This is the clearest history (in my view) of twentieth century French monetary policy. Nothing else compares.”—Timothy Smith, Queen’s University

Defender of the gold standard and controversial philosopher of the relationship between money, capitalism, and democracy, Jacques Rueff (1898–1978) was one of 20th-century Europe’s leading experts on the perils of inflation and its impact on long-term economic growth and social stability. Once the guiding principle for European domestic and international economic policy, monetary conservatism went out of style in the interwar period when the gold standard collapsed under attacks from figures like John Maynard Keynes. Yet today, it is again becoming an important force behind inflation-fighting strategies around the world.

This first major English-language work on Rueff explains his thought in the context of political economic events of the interwar and postwar era. Christopher Chivvis presents a new angle on the history of 20th-century political economic ideas and illuminates a conservative European continental current hitherto much ignored. Rueff was a conservative in many aspects—his concern with order, his belief in the innate fragility of human society, his skepticism, and his belief in the importance of a powerful state. In Rueff’s day, moderate conservatism was closely linked with liberal political economy, and Rueff considered himself a liberal in the sense that he believed in the free market. One of the book’s main arguments, however, is that the foundations of his free market views were as conservative in nature as they were liberal.

The Monetary Conservative is especially timely given the current weakness of the global economy, a subject about which Rueff had much to say. Essential reading for political economists and historians of modern European politics, Chivvis’s study will appeal to scholars of liberalism and neoliberalism, policy experts exploring the history behind the European Monetary Union and the gold standard, and general readers interested in political economic thought.

(2010) 253 pp., 5 illus.
ISBN 978-0-87580-417-0
cloth $26.95

Christopher S. Chivvis is a political scientist with the RAND Corporation and teaches International History at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-417-0
The Monetary Conservative $26.95