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The Welfare Cost of Permanent Inflation and Optimal Short-Run Economic Policy

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  • Martin Feldstein

Abstract

At a minimum, this paper should serve as a warning against too easy an acceptance of the view that the costs of sustained inflation are small relative to the costs of unemployment. If a temporary reduction in unemployment causes a permanent increase in inflation, the present value of the resulting future welfare costs may well exceed the temporary short-run gain. Previous analyses have underestimated the cost of a permanent increase in the inflation rate because they have ignored the growth of the economy and therefore the growth of the future instantaneous welfare costs. In the important case in which the growth of aggregate income exceeds the social discount rate, no reduction in unemployment can justify any permanent increase in the rate of inflation. Quite the contrary, if the inflation rate is above its optimal level, the economy should then be deflated to reduce the inflation rate regardless of the temporary consequences for unemployment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0201.

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Date of creation: Sep 1977
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Publication status: published as Feldstein, Martin S. "The Welfare Cost of Permanent Inflation and Optimal Short-Run Economic Policy." Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 87, No. 4, (August 1979), pp. 749-768.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0201

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  1. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
  2. Sheshinski, Eytan & Feldstein, Martin & Green, Jerry & Auerbach, Alan, 1978. "Inflation and Taxes in a Growing Economy with Debt and Equity Finance," Scholarly Articles 3203645, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Arnold Harberger, 1964. "Taxation, Resource Allocation, and Welfare," NBER Chapters, in: The Role of Direct and Indirect Taxes in the Federal Reserve System, pages 25-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Long-Term Contracts, Rational Expectations, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 191-205, February.
  5. Modigliani, Franco, 1977. "The Monetarist Controversy or, Should We Forsake Stabilization Policies?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 1-19, March.
  6. Hall, Robert E., 1976. "The Phillips curve and macroeconomic policy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 127-148, January.
  7. James Tobin, 1956. "Liquidity Preference as Behavior Towards Risk," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 14, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Baily, Martin Neil, 1977. "On the Theory of Layoffs and Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(5), pages 1043-63, July.
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Cited by:
  1. repec:nrb:journl:v:22:y:2010:p:4 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Darrel Cohen & Kevin Hassett & R. Glenn Hubbard, 1999. "Inflation and the User Cost of Capital: Does Inflation Still Matter?," NBER Chapters, in: The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability, pages 199-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Martin S. Feldstein, 1999. "Capital Income Taxes and the Benefit of Price Stability," NBER Chapters, in: The Costs and Benefits of Price Stability, pages 9-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Buiter, Willem H, 2006. "How Robust is the New Conventional Wisdom? The Surprising Fragility of the Theoretical Foundations of Inflation Targeting and Central Bank Independence," CEPR Discussion Papers 5772, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. T.P. Koirala Ph.D, 2010. "Welfare Costs of Inflation in Nepal: An Empirical Analysis," NRB Economic Review, Nepal Rastra Bank, Research Department, vol. 22, pages 57-68, April.
  6. Chuang, Shi-Feng & Huo, Teh-Ming, 2003. "A note on the optimum quantity of money," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 269-276, May.

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