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Inflationary Finance and the Welfare Cost of Inflation

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  • Barro, Robert J.

Abstract

This paper applies previous theoretical and empirical results on inflation and demand for money to a study of inflationary finance and the welfare cost of inflation. The amount of revenue generated by a steady inflation is derived as a function of the inflation rate and some underlying parameters. Empirically, the revenue-maximizing rate is on the order of 140 percent per month with the corresponding revenue approximating 15 percent of national income. It is argued that hyper-inflations become unstable when the revenue-maximizing rate is exceeded. Because inflation leads to higher transaction costs (resulting from greater payment frequencies and reduced use of "money" as a payments medium), there is a net social cost attached to inflationary finance. The model implies that marginal collection costs of inflationary finance exceed 50 percent for all positive rates of inflation-hence, alternative means of raising revenue should be socially preferable. The analysis also provides estimates of the social gain from moving to the optimum quantity of money as 1-3 percent of income.

Suggested Citation

  • Barro, Robert J., 1972. "Inflationary Finance and the Welfare Cost of Inflation," Scholarly Articles 3451393, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3451393
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Friedman, Milton, 1971. "Government Revenue from Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(4), pages 846-856, July-Aug..
    2. Feige, Edgar L & Parkin, Michael, 1971. "The Optimal Quantity of Money, Bonds, Commodity Inventories, and Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 335-349, June.
    3. Stein, Jerome L, 1970. "Monetary Growth Theory in Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-106, March.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Akhand Akhtar Hossain, 2009. "Central Banking and Monetary Policy in the Asia-Pacific," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 12777.
    3. Easterly, William R & Mauro, Paolo & Schmidt-Hebbel, Klaus, 1995. "Money Demand and Seigniorage-Maximizing Inflation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(2), pages 583-603, May.
    4. Daniel Chiquiar & Raúl Ibarra-Ramírez, 2019. "Central Bank Independence and Inflation: An Empirical Analysis," Working Papers 2019-18, Banco de México.
    5. Mladenovic, Zorica & Petrovic, Pavle, 2010. "Cagan's paradox and money demand in hyperinflation: Revisited at daily frequency," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(7), pages 1369-1384, November.
    6. Siffat Mushtaq & Abdul Rashid & Abdul Qayyum, 2012. "On the Welfare Cost of Inflation: The Case of Pakistan," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 51(1), pages 61-96.
    7. Pessôa, Samuel de Abreu, 2000. "Welfare characterization of monetary-applied models and three implications," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 378, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    8. repec:bas:econth:y:2012:i:3:p:58-75 is not listed on IDEAS
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    10. Miller, Stephen Matteo & Ndhlela, Thandinkosi, 2020. "Money demand and seignorage maximization before the end of the Zimbabwean dollar," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    11. Stanley Fischer, 1983. "Seigniorage and Fixed Exchange Rates: An Optimal Inflation Tax Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Policies and the World Capital Market: The Problem of Latin American Countries, pages 59-70, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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