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The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability

In: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy

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  • Martin S. Feldstein

Abstract

This paper evaluates the welfare gain from achieving price stability and compares it to the cost of the transition. In calculating the gain from price stability, the paper emphasizes the distortions caused by the interaction of inflation and capital income taxes. Because inflation exacerbates the tax distortions that would exist even with price stability, the annual deadweight loss of a two percent inflation rate is a surprisingly large one percent of GDP. Since the real gain from shifting to price stability grows in perpetuity at the rate of growth of GDP, its present value is a substantial multiple of this annual gain. Discounting the annual gains at the rate that investors require for risky equity investments (i.e., at the 5.1 percent real net-of-tax rate of return on the Standard and Poors portfolio of equities from 1970 to 1994) implies a present value gain equal to more than 35 percent of the initial level of GDP. Since the estimated cost of shifting from two percent inflation to price stability is about five percent of GDP, the gain substantially outweighs the cost of transition.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 8883.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:8883

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    1. Boskin, Michael J, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S3-27, April.
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1999. "Tax Avoidance And The Deadweight Loss Of The Income Tax," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 674-680, November.
    3. Martin Feldstei & Jerry Green & Eytan Sheshinski, 1978. "Inflation and Taxes in a Growing Economy with Debt and Equity Finance," NBER Chapters, in: Research in Taxation, pages 53-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Scholarly Articles 2766676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    5. Ballard, Charles L & Shoven, John B & Whalley, John, 1985. "General Equilibrium Computations of the Marginal Welfare Costs of Taxes in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 128-38, March.
    6. Benabou, Roland, 1992. "Inflation and Efficiency in Search Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 299-329, April.
    7. Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 5-41, January.
    8. Laurence Ball, 1994. "What Determines the Sacrifice Ratio?," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 155-193 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert J. Barro, 1995. "Inflation and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 5326, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Blinder, Alan S, 1975. "Distribution Effects and the Aggregate Consumption Function," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(3), pages 447-75, June.
    11. Martin Feldstein & Daniel Feenberg, 1995. "The Effect of Increased Tax Rates on Taxable Income and Economic Efficiency: A Preliminary Analysis of the 1993 Tax Rate Increases," NBER Working Papers 5370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Poterba, James M, 1984. "Tax Subsidies to Owner-occupied Housing: An Asset-Market Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(4), pages 729-52, November.
    13. Harvey S. Rosen, 1983. "Housing Subsidies: Effects on Housing Decisions, Efficiency, and Equity," NBER Working Papers 1161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Feldstein, Martin & Dicks-Mireaux, Louis & Poterba, James, 1983. "The effective tax rate and the pretax rate of return," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 129-158, July.
    15. Feldstein, Martin, 1995. "The Effect of Marginal Tax Rates on Taxable Income: A Panel Study of the 1986 Tax Reform Act," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 551-72, June.
    16. Martin Feldstein, 1994. "Tax Policy and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 4851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S29-51, April.
    18. Fischer, Stanley & Summers, Lawrence H, 1989. "Should Governments Learn to Live with Inflation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 382-87, May.
    19. Evans, Owen J, 1983. "Tax Policy, the Interest Elasticity of Saving, and Capital Accumulation: Numerical Analysis of Theoretical Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 398-410, June.
    20. Michael J. Boskin, 1978. "Taxation, Saving, and the Rate of Interest," NBER Chapters, in: Research in Taxation, pages 3-27 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Stanley Fischer & Franco Modigliani, 1978. "Towards an understanding of the real effects and costs of inflation," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 114(4), pages 810-833, December.
    22. James M. Poterba, 1992. "Taxation and Housing: Old Questions, New Answers," NBER Working Papers 3963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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