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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 June 2017

Rosario Patalano*
University of Naples Federico II, Department of Law, Via Mezzocannone, 16, 80100, Naples, Italy; e-mail:


In the current recession, the proposal of negative nominal interest has received widespread attention, not only in the academic world. The negative interest rate issue was originally developed by Silvio Gesell (1862–1930), a German merchant, self-taught economist, and social reformer. In his main work, The Natural Economic Order, Gesell offered a theoretical basis for the practical implementation of the negative interest rate. This proposal, generally known as the “stamped money plan,” was favorably commented upon by two outstanding twentieth-century economists, Irving Fisher and John Maynard Keynes, and put into practice during the Great Depression. In this paper I propose a reading of Gesell’s theory of money from the point of view of quantity theory, giving prominence to elements of affinity with Fisher’s monetary theory. This re-examination entails revision of the opinion on the analytical contribution made by Gesell, who was generally tagged as a typical monetary crank, and proves that his place in the history of economic thought is less marginal than previously thought, reinforcing critical appreciation of him.

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