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The Gibson Paradox and Historical Movements in Real Interest Rates

Robert J. Shiller and Jeremy J. Siegel
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 85, No. 5 (Oct., 1977), pp. 891-908
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1830338
Page Count: 17
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The Gibson Paradox and Historical Movements in Real Interest Rates
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Abstract

This paper analyzes the correlation between interest rates and prices which as persisted for the past quarter of a millennium and has been termed the Gibson Paradox. Spectral techniques confirm the correlation between long-term interest rates and prices for very long-term swings (the Gibson Paradox), but indicate a significant short cycle correlation only for short-term interest rates, which we term the Kitchin Phenomenon. Past explanations of these correlations have often failed to distinguish cycle lengths and term of interest rates involved. Our analysis rejects Irving Fisher's "price expectation" explanation and the Sargent-Wicksell velocity of money explanations. We propose alternative explanations which in part relate to the characteristic behavior of governments during wartime and in part to distributional effects of unanticipated inflation. Our analysis strongly suggests that prior to World War I nominal long and short rates of interest can be regarded as real rates.

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