Richard Timberlake Article

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Richard Timberlake
Born (1922-06-24) June 24, 1922 (age 96) [1]
Nationality United States
Institution University of Georgia (1964–1990)
School or
Free Banking
Alma mater University of Chicago (Ph.D.), 1957
Influences Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Earl J. Hamilton
Contributions Real bills doctrine as the origin of the Great Depression, free banking

Richard H. Timberlake, Jr. (born June 24, 1922) is an American economist who was Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia for much of his career. He also has become a leading advocate of free banking, the belief that money should be issued by private companies, not by a government monopoly. He wrote about the Legal Tender Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court in his book Constitutional Money: A Review of the Supreme Court's Monetary Decisions.


Born in Steubenville, Ohio, Timberlake was in the US military in World War II. He became a pilot in the U.S. Air Forces and flew 26 missions as a co-pilot in the 8th Air Force. He was awarded three Purple Hearts. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts at Kenyon College in 1946, a Master's at Columbia University in 1950, and a Ph.D in 1959 from the University of Chicago where he studied under Milton Friedman and Earl J. Hamilton.

He then taught economics at Muhlenberg College, Norwich University, Rensselaer Polytechnic, Florida State University, and the University of Georgia from 1963–1990, when he retired. Timberlake's research has been on the history of money, central banking, and monetary policy. [2]


Timberlake's research on the development of private moneys occurred at the time of Friedrich Hayek's idea of The Denationalization of Money, extending and expanding upon it in coordination with the free banking movement. He believes that, instead of a government-imposed central bank, there should be a free market in the production of money, with banks choosing how to issue their own, competing currencies.

Timberlake also examined the causes of the Great Depression, and emphasized the switch of the Federal Reserve, starting in 1929, to the real bills doctrine of money management, and an anti-speculation policy that severely reduced bank reserves and the amount of deposit money that the banks could create. The money supply contracted by 30% in four years, something that no market economy could tolerate. Along with Hayek of the Austrian school, Milton Friedman of the Chicago school, and even the Keynesians, Timberlake sees this Fed policy as the primary cause of the Great Depression. [3]

However, Timberlake does not reject the gold standard. While many economists blame the gold standard for the monetary collapse, Timberlake cites data that refutes the validity of their complaints. He shows that the Fed Banks and U.S. Treasury had plenty of gold in the 1929–1933 period. Timberlake concludes that government interference with gold standard adjustments caused most of the trouble in the past, producing cycles of money growth and deflation, panic and depression.


Timberlake has been active in politics. He was involved in the Harry Browne presidential campaign, and written/signed open letters advocating various positions, such as school choice and rejection of policies that would have raised taxes. In the past he was a vocal and outspoken critic of the science behind anthropogenic climate change, writing a number of op-ed pieces for the Athens Banner Herald.


  • Money and Banking, with Edward Selby (1972)
  • The origins of central banking in the United States. Harvard University Press. 1978. ISBN  978-0-674-64480-9.
  • Gold, Greenbacks, and the Constitution (1991)
  • Money and the Nation State, with Kevin Dowd (1998)
  • Monetary Policy in the United States: An Intellectual and Institutional History. University of Chicago Press. 1993. ISBN  978-0-226-80384-5.
  • They Never Saw Me Then (2002)
  • Constitutional Money: A Review of the Supreme Court’s Monetary Decisions (2013) [4]

Articles in:

  • The New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance
  • The Encyclopedia of Business History and Biography

See also


  1. ^ "Richard H. Timberlake" – Biography at
  2. ^ Richard H. Timberlake Jr. at
  3. ^ Gold Standards and the Real Bills Doctrine in U.S. Monetary Policy by Richard H. Timberlake in Econ Journal Watch
  4. ^ Timberlake, Richard H. (2013). Constitutional money : a review of the Supreme Court's monetary decisions (Hard cover first ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 247. ISBN  978-1-107-03254-5.

Further reading

External links