Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Samuelson on Stagflation

Robert Samuelson is not my favorite economist, but this editorial at Real Clear Politics is a must read:

Naturally, no politician acknowledges the self-evident implication: that recessions, though unwanted and hurtful to many, are not just inevitable; sometimes they're also necessary to prevent the larger and longer-lasting harm that would result from resurgent inflation. Interestingly, many academic and business economists who have more freedom to speak their minds suffer the same deficiency. They treat every potential recession as a policy failure when it is often simply part of the business cycle. They thus contribute to a political climate that, focused on avoiding or minimizing any recession, may perversely aggravate inflation and lead to much harsher recessions later. The stagflation that began in the late 1960s and resulted from this attitude was indeed dreadful: from 1969 to 1982, inflation averaged 7.5 percent annually and unemployment 6.4 percent.

Samuelson points out that the Fed may be repeating the mistakes of the 70s:

Unfortunately, the Fed shows signs of overreacting to these pressures and repeating the great blunder of the 1970s. Underestimating inflation then, the Fed repeatedly shoved out too much money and credit in a vain effort to keep the economy near "full employment." Now, switch to the present. Again, the Fed has underestimated inflation. It expected the economic slowdown to suppress inflation spontaneously. But so far, the lower inflation hasn't materialized in part because, outside of housing, there hasn't been much of an economic slowdown.

I hope this doesn't mean that leisure suits will be making a comeback....

No comments: