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Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative

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  • Robert B. Barsky
  • Lutz Kilian

Abstract

This paper argues that major oil price increases were not nearly as essential a part of the causal mechanism that generated the stagflation of the 1970s as is often thought. There is neither a theoretical presumption that oil supply shocks are stagflationary nor robust empirical evidence for this view. In contrast, we show that monetary expansions and contractions can generate stagflation of realistic magnitude even in the absence of supply shocks. Furthermore, monetary fluctuations help to explain the historical movements of the prices of oil and other commodities, including the surge in the prices of industrial commodities that preceded the 1973/74 oil price increase. Thus, they can account for the striking coincidence of major oil price increases and worsening stagflation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8389.

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Date of creation: Jul 2001
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Publication status: published as Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative , Robert B. Barsky, Lutz Kilian. in NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2001, Volume 16 , Bernanke and Rogoff. 2002
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8389

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