Showing posts with label Inflation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inflation. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Calling Out The Inflation Obsessives

Paul Krugman's recent piece on the inflation obsessives is absolutely correct. Worth of highlighting...

What accounts for inflation obsession? One answer is that obsessives failed to distinguish between underlying inflation and short-term fluctuations in the headline number, which are mainly driven by volatile energy and food prices. Gasoline prices, in particular, strongly influence inflation in any given year, and dire warnings are heard whenever prices rise at the pump; yet such blips say nothing at all about future inflation. 

They should know this but they seemingly don't.

They also failed to understand that printing money in a depressed economy isn’t inflationary. I could have told them that, and in fact I did. But maybe there was some excuse for not grasping this point in 2008 or early 2009. 

It's nothing really but willful ignorance.  It's fundamental economic fact.

The point, however, is that inflation obsession has persisted, year after year, even as events have refuted its supposed justifications. And this tells us that something more than bad analysis is at work. At a fundamental level, it’s political. This is fairly obvious if you look at who the inflation obsessives are. While a few conservatives believe that the Fed should be doing more, not less, they have little if any real influence. The overall picture is that most conservatives are inflation obsessives, and nearly all inflation obsessives are conservative. 

It's also emotional and rooted in profound insecurity. Why are they like this?

In part it reflects the belief that the government should never seek to mitigate economic pain, because the private sector always knows best. Back in the 1930s, Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter inveighed against any effort to fight the depression with easy money; to do so, warned Schumpeter, would be to leave “the work of depressions undone.” Modern conservatives are generally less open about the harshness of their view, but it’s pretty much the same. 

The flip side of this antigovernment attitude is the conviction that any attempt to boost the economy, whether fiscal or monetary, must produce disastrous results — Zimbabwe, here we come! And this conviction is so strong that it persists no matter how wrong it has been, year after year. 

It's truly bizarre. The continue to be wrong...clearly...and yet they continue to assert they are right. I suppose that's the bubble for you:)

Krugman doesn't paint a very rosy picture of the Fed either. At least it's rooted in fact and not moutfoaming moonbattery. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Change of Heart On Inflation

My latest installment on Stiglitz was heavily centered on the issue of inflation and how the Fed seems completely obsessed with keeping it low. Yet, a recent piece in the New York Times indicates that there might be a sea change with the appointment of Janet Yellin.

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

I agree. We have to end the inflation hawk hysteria and move towards a more balanced approach towards growth. This is exactly what Stiglitz was hoping would happen when he wrote his tome two years ago and we may finally be heading in that direction.