The visible hand in economics

Archive for the ‘Inflation debate’ Category

Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

With the trade-off between inflation and other things behind us, and a justification for inflation targeting, we have a good base to discuss current activity and issues. The aim is to now discuss other methods of fighting inflation – however, before discussing this I think it is important to discuss another technical issue: How do we measure inflation?

This is both an incredibly important issue, and a highly contentious one. While I was going to write a long post on this, Dr Chinn at Econobrowser beat me to it (and also did an infinitely better job than I could have ;) ). Dr Chinn discusses how we use the CPI to measure inflation, and the limitations of this measure (especially in terms of individuals expectations of what inflation is!). As a result, he covered all my main points :)

However, I will write some additional stuff anyway ;)

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Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

After placing down all the trade-offs between inflation and output, it was not clear that fighting inflation was necessarily the best cause of action. Although there are definitely costs from inflation, there are also costs from fighting it. Ultimately, it would be nice to have a method of dealing with inflation that got rid of these trade-offs, and just made us better off. One way we could try and do this is through explicit inflation targeting.

We have touched on the benefits associated with inflation targeting before here and here. However, now we will try to tie these benefits down amongst the costs and trade-offs associated with inflation and inflation fighting.

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Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

So, after calling on you guys to give me some indication of your views on monetary policy we discussed what inflation is, and then we moved on to discussing the costs that stem from inflation. We are now ready to discuss the big topic – the trade-off between inflation and other things.

I’m glad that we managed to talk about this topic this year, as it is the 50th anniversery of the paper “the Relationship between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wages in the United Kingdom 1861-1957” written by our own Dr Phillips. In this paper Dr Phillips found that, over this period, there was a negative relationship between money wage changes and unemployment.

This was eventually broadened to a negative relationship between inflation and unemployement, which gave rise to the Phillips curve. Initially this led economists to believe that there is a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. However, the instability of the Phillips curve when policy analysts tried to take advantage of this relationship (when analysts tried to use the relationship it disappeared), and the popularity of the natural rate hypothesis (stating that there is a “natural rate” that unemployment settles at), led to a movement away from this, and the statement that there is no long-run trade-off between inflation and unemployment! (now viewed as the NAIRU)

Taking this as given, what other trade-offs are there? Read the rest of this entry »

Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

Hi again everyone. Apologises for the delay getting this out, I have been sick. I’m still feeling quite sick, so if you read anything you think is wrong be sure to comment on it – as it probably is.

Without too many substantive criticisms of our view of what inflation is (yet) it seems that we can move on with our discussion on “re-thinking monetary policy“.

The next step in this process is to ask, what are the costs of inflation?

Previously we defined inflation as:

when the price of all goods consistently increase for no “real” reason

Given this definition, we have to ask are there costs associated with a consistent increase in the general price level?

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Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

Thank you for all the insightful and intelligent comments (and posts on other blog) on the Re-thinking monetary policy post. Now that you guys have put down the important issues that we have to look at with monetary policy all I need to do is discuss them with my own opinions ;)

However, even with all your help we can’t just jump straight in to saying whether policy should change or stay the same. First we have to define what the hell we are talking about! This involves starting with the question, what is inflation? Once we know what inflation is, we can figure out what the costs of inflation are. From there we can work out what trade-off exists when dealing with inflation, and then we can sort out whether current monetary policy is dealing with this trade-off appropriately.

There is a simple answer to what is inflation, but it isn’t particularly useful. The simple definition is that inflation is “the rate of change” in the general price level (*). To really understand what inflation is though, we have to understand what causes growth in the general level of prices.

Here I will go over some points that build off each other (the fundamental points are in italics, the bold bits are just titles :) ). If you disagree with a specific point, raise your criticisms and we will discuss it and try to figure out where to go from there. Hopefully painting it out this way will make the final description transparent.

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Note: Other posts in this discussion are available under the tag “inflation debate“.

So Trevor Mallard is suggesting that New Zealand “re-thinks” its interest rate policy.

Now his statements that the currency is a “one-way bet” is thinking that is associated with the NZX, while his statement that higher interest rates may have caused the housing bubble is the thinking of Berl – they both stem from submissions to a monetary policy review by the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee.

In fact, at the time I wrote about both of them, here for NZX and here for Berl. Overall, I felt that both of these organisations were completely wrong – which is why I’m so troubled that the current government has decided to follow their ideas.

Now given that I have discussed this business before I would like you guys to leave some comments saying what you think about the monetary policy framework and how you think it could be improved. I will then write some posts discussing the issues raised. Hopefully some people actually comment to this post :p . Please please please, write what you think :)

Note: I am not going to comment on this post, although I will be reading all the comments and thinking about them. Furthermore, and other blog members may comment. Feel free to say whatever stuff you feel about inflation and policy on it, and I will try to pull it all together later on.

Links to other posts discussing this issue can be found under the flap:
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