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.
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.
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.