IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Great Inflation of the seventies: what really happened?

  • Edward Nelson

This paper revisits the issue of what factors motivated the macroeconomic policies that led to the Great Inflation of the 1970s. A satisfactory explanation must be consistent with (1) the estimated monetary policy reaction function; (2) the timing patterns relating monetary policy developments and inflation; and (3) the record of economic views (manifested in statements by policymakers and prominent financial commentators). It is argued that the monetary policy neglect hypothesis - which claims that policymakers took a nonmonetary view of the inflation process - meets all three criteria. Other explanations are ruled out, with one exception (the output gap mismeasurement hypothesis), which supplements the monetary policy neglect hypothesis. This conclusion is based on a study of the Great Inflation in both the U.K. and the U.S., and draws on both quantitative and archival evidence, particularly news coverage.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2004-001.

in new window

Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Advances in Macroeconomics, July 2005, 5(1), Article 3
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2004-001
Contact details of provider: Postal: P.O. Box 442, St. Louis, MO 63166
Fax: (314)444-8753
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Email:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Beyer, Andreas & Farmer, Roger E.A., 2007. "Natural rate doubts," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 797-825, March.
  2. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Inflation Targeting Rules," NBER Working Papers 9939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James B. Bullard & Stefano Eusepi, 2003. "Did the Great Inflation occur despite policymaker commitment to a Taylor rule?," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2003-20, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  4. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1998. "Expectation Traps and Discretion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 462-492, August.
  5. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2002. "The Evolution of Economic Understanding and Postwar Stabilization Policy," NBER Working Papers 9274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard G. Anderson & Robert H. Rasche, 2001. "The remarkable stability of monetary base velocity in the United States, 1919-1999," Working Papers 2001-008, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  7. Arthur F. Burns, 1978. "Reflections of an Economic Policy Maker," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 725136, April.
  8. David Laidler, 2003. "The role of the history of economic thought in modern macroeconomics," Chapters, in: Monetary History, Exchange Rates and Financial Markets, chapter 1 Edward Elgar.
  9. Bennett T. McCallum, 2002. "Recent developments in monetary policy analysis: the roles of theory and evidence," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Win, pages 67-96.
  10. Robert B. Barsky & Lutz Kilian, 2001. "Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative," NBER Working Papers 8389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Lawrence J. Christiano & Christopher J. Gust, 2000. "The Expectations Trap Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 7809, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Michael R. Darby & James R. Lothian & Arthur E. Gandolfi & Anna J. Schwartz & Alan C. Stockman, 1983. "The International Transmission of Inflation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number darb83-1, December.
  13. Robert L. Hetzel, 1998. "Arthur Burns and inflation," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Win, pages 21-44.
  14. Arthur F. Burns, 1973. "Letter on monetary policy," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 15-22.
  15. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2003. "The decline of activist stabilization policy: natural rate misperceptions, learning, and expectations," Working Paper Series 2003-24, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  16. Nelson, Edward, 2001. "What Does the UK's Monetary Policy and Inflation Experience Tell Us About the Transmission Mechanism?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3047, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "The quest for prosperity without inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 633-663, April.
  18. Thomas M. Humphrey, 1998. "Historical origins of the cost-push fallacy," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Sum, pages 53-74.
  19. Batini, Nicoletta & Nelson, Edward, 2001. "The Lag from Monetary Policy Actions to Inflation: Friedman Revisited," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 381-400, Winter.
  20. Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams & Tao Zha, 2009. "The Conquest of South American Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 211-256, 04.
  21. Athanasios Orphanides & John Williams, 2004. "Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 201-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Julio Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1997. "An Optimization-Based Econometric Framework for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 297-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2001. "Monetary policy rules, macroeconomic stability and inflation: a view from the trenches," Working Paper Series 0115, European Central Bank.
  24. Nelson, Edward & Nikolov, Kalin, 2002. "Monetary Policy and Stagflation in the UK," CEPR Discussion Papers 3458, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  25. Laidler, David, 1989. "Dow and Saville's Critique of Monetary Policy--A Review Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1147-59, September.
  26. Richard Clarida & Jordi GalĂ­ & Mark Gertler, 2000. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and Some Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(1), pages 147-180.
  27. Michael D. Bordo & Anna J. Schwartz, 1997. "Monetary Policy Regimes and Economic Performance: The Historical Record," NBER Working Papers 6201, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Kevin J. Lansing, 2000. "Learning about a shift in trend output: implications for monetary policy and inflation," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  29. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1990. "New Evidence on the Monetary Transmission Mechanism," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 21(1), pages 149-214.
  30. Dallas S. Batten, 1981. "Inflation: the cost-push myth," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jun, pages 20-27.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2004-001. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Anna Xiao)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.