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In economics, stagflation, or recession-inflation, is a situation in which the inflation rate is high, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high. It presents a dilemma for economic policy, since actions intended to lower inflation may exacerbate unemployment
Economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Economic growth is the increase in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an economy over time. It is conventionally measured as the percent rate of increase in real gross domestic product, or real GDP.
Unemployment, or joblessness, is a situation in which able-bodied people who are looking for a job cannot find a job.
The term, a portmanteau of stagnation and inflation , is generally attributed to Iain Macleod, a British Conservative Party politician who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1970. Macleod used the word in a 1965 speech to Parliament during a period of simultaneously high inflation and unemployment in the United Kingdom.
A portmanteau or portmanteau word is a linguistic blend of words, in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds) are combined into a new word, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes.
Economic stagnation is a prolonged period of slow economic growth, usually accompanied by high unemployment. Under some definitions, "slow" means significantly slower than potential growth as estimated by macroeconomists, even though the growth rate may be nominally higher than in other countries not experiencing economic stagnation.
In economics, inflation is a sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation reflects a reduction in the purchasing power per unit of money – a loss of real value in the medium of exchange and unit of account within the economy. The opposite of inflation is deflation, a sustained decrease in the general price level of goods and services. The common measure of inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index, usually the consumer price index, over time.
Warning the House of Commons of the gravity of the situation, he said:
"We now have the worst of both worlds—not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of "stagflation" situation. And history, in modern terms, is indeed being made."
Macleod used the term again on 7 July 1970, and the media began also to use it, for example in The Economist on 15 August 1970, and Newsweek on 19 March 1973.
The Economist is an English-language weekly magazine-format newspaper owned by the Economist Group and edited at offices in London. Continuous publication began under its founder James Wilson in September 1843. In 2015, its average weekly circulation was a little over 1.5 million, about half of which were sold in the United States. Pearson PLC held a 50% shareholding via The Financial Times Limited until August 2015. At that time, Pearson sold their share in the Economist. The Agnelli family's Exor paid £287m to raise their stake from 4.7% to 43.4% while the Economist paid £182m for the balance of 5.04m shares which will be distributed to current shareholders. Aside from the Agnelli family, smaller shareholders in the company include Cadbury, Rothschild (21%), Schroder, Layton and other family interests as well as a number of staff and former staff shareholders.
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine founded in 1933.
John Maynard Keynes did not use the term, but some of his work refers to the conditions that most would recognise as stagflation. In the version of Keynesian macroeconomic theory that was dominant between the end of World War II and the late 1970s, inflation and recession were regarded as mutually exclusive, the relationship between the two being described by the Phillips curve. Stagflation is very costly and difficult to eradicate once it starts, both in social terms and in budget deficits.
John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, was a British economist, trained mathematician, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and was one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. Widely considered the founder of modern macroeconomics, his ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.
Keynesian economics is a group of various macroeconomic theories about how in the short run – and especially during recessions – economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand. In the Keynesian view, named for British economist John Maynard Keynes, aggregate demand does not necessarily equal the productive capacity of the economy; instead, it is influenced by a host of factors and sometimes behaves erratically, affecting production, employment, and inflation.
The Phillips curve is a single-equation economic model, named after William Phillips, describing an inverse relationship between rates of unemployment and corresponding rates of rises in wages that result within an economy. Stated simply, decreased unemployment, in an economy will correlate with higher rates of wage rises. Phillips did not himself state there was any relationship between employment and inflation; this notion was a trivial deduction from his statistical findings. Samuelson and Solow made the connection explicit and subsequently Milton Friedman and Edmund Phelps put the theoretical structure in place. In so doing, Friedman was to successfully predict the imminent collapse of Phillips' a-theoretic correlation.
The term stagflation, a portmanteau of stagnation and inflation , was first coined during a period of inflation and unemployment in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom experienced an outbreak of inflation in the 1960s and 1970s.
In a Bank of England working papers series, article authors Edward Nelson and Kalin Nikolov (2002) examined causes and policy errors related to the Great Inflation in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, arguing that as inflation rose in the 1960s and 1970s, UK policy makers failed to recognize the primary role of monetary policy in controlling inflation. Instead, they attempted to use non-monetary policies and devices to respond to the economic crisis. Policy makers also made "inaccurate estimates of the degree of excess demand in the economy, [which] contributed significantly to the outbreak of inflation in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s.
Stagflation was not limited to the United Kingdom, however. Economists have shown that stagflation was prevalent among seven major economies from 1973 to 1982.After inflation rates began to fall in 1982, economists' focus shifted from the causes of stagflation to the "determinants of productivity growth and the effects of real wages on the demand for labor".
Economists offer two principal explanations for why stagflation occurs. First, stagflation can result when the economy faces a supply shock, such as a rapid increase in the price of oil. An unfavorable situation like that tends to raise prices at the same time as it slows economic growth by making production more costly and less profitable.
Second, the government can cause stagflation if it creates policies that harm industry while growing the money supply too quickly. These two things would probably have to occur simultaneously because policies that slow economic growth do not usually cause inflation, and policies that cause inflation do not usually slow economic growth.[ citation needed ]
Both explanations are offered in analyses of the global stagflation of the 1970s. It began with a huge rise in oil prices, but then continued as central banks used excessively stimulative monetary policy to counteract the resulting recession, causing a price/wage spiral.
Up to the 1960s, many Keynesian economists ignored the possibility of stagflation, because historical experience suggested that high unemployment was typically associated with low inflation, and vice versa (this relationship is called the Phillips curve). The idea was that high demand for goods drives up prices, and also encourages firms to hire more; and likewise high employment raises demand. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, when stagflation occurred, it became obvious that the relationship between inflation and employment levels was not necessarily stable: that is, the Phillips relationship could shift. Macroeconomists became more skeptical of Keynesian theories, and Keynesians themselves reconsidered their ideas in search of an explanation for stagflation.
The explanation for the shift of the Phillips curve was initially provided by the monetarist economist Milton Friedman, and also by Edmund Phelps. Both argued that when workers and firms begin to expect more inflation, the Phillips curve shifts up (meaning that more inflation occurs at any given level of unemployment). In particular, they suggested that if inflation lasted for several years, workers and firms would start to take it into account during wage negotiations, causing workers' wages and firms' costs to rise more quickly, thus further increasing inflation. While this idea was a severe criticism of early Keynesian theories, it was gradually accepted by most Keynesians, and has been incorporated into New Keynesian economic models.
Neo-Keynesian theory distinguished two distinct kinds of inflation: demand-pull (caused by shifts of the aggregate demand curve) and cost-push (caused by shifts of the aggregate supply curve). Stagflation, in this view, is caused by cost-push inflation. Cost-push inflation occurs when some force or condition increases the costs of production. This could be caused by government policies (such as taxes) or from purely external factors such as a shortage of natural resources or an act of war.
Contemporary Keynesian analyses argue that stagflation can be understood by distinguishing factors that affect aggregate demand from those that affect aggregate supply. While monetary and fiscal policy can be used to stabilise the economy in the face of aggregate demand fluctuations, they are not very useful in confronting aggregate supply fluctuations. In particular, an adverse shock to aggregate supply, such as an increase in oil prices, can give rise to stagflation.
Supply theories are based on the neo-Keynesian cost-push model and attribute stagflation to significant disruptions to the supply side of the supply-demand market equation, such as when there is a sudden real or relative scarcity of key commodities, natural resources, or natural capital needed to produce goods and services. [ citation needed ] In this view, stagflation is thought to occur when there is an adverse supply shock (for example, a sudden increase in the price of oil or a new tax) that causes a subsequent jump in the "cost" of goods and services (often at the wholesale level). In technical terms, this results in contraction or negative shift in an economy's aggregate supply curve.[ citation needed ]Other factors may also cause supply problems, for example, social and political conditions such as policy changes, acts of war, extremely restrictive government control of production.
In the resource scarcity scenario (Zinam 1982), stagflation results when economic growth is inhibited by a restricted supply of raw materials. [ citation needed ]That is, when the actual or relative supply of basic materials (fossil fuels (energy), minerals, agricultural land in production, timber, etc.) decreases and/or cannot be increased fast enough in response to rising or continuing demand. The resource shortage may be a real physical shortage, or a relative scarcity due to factors such as taxes or bad monetary policy influencing the "cost" or availability of raw materials. This is consistent with the cost-push inflation factors in neo-Keynesian theory (above). The way this plays out is that after supply shock occurs, the economy first tries to maintain momentum. That is, consumers and businesses begin paying higher prices to maintain their level of demand. The central bank may exacerbate this by increasing the money supply, by lowering interest rates for example, in an effort to combat a recession. The increased money supply props up the demand for goods and services, though demand would normally drop during a recession.
In the Keynesian model, higher prices prompt increases in the supply of goods and services. However, during a supply shock (i.e., scarcity, "bottleneck" in resources, etc.), supplies do not respond as they normally would to these price pressures. So, inflation jumps and output drops, producing stagflation.[ citation needed ]
Following Richard Nixon's imposition of wage and price controls on 15 August 1971, an initial wave of cost-push shocks in commodities were blamed for causing spiraling prices. The second major shock was the 1973 oil crisis, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) constrained the worldwide supply of oil.Both events, combined with the overall energy shortage that characterized the 1970s, resulted in actual or relative scarcity of raw materials. The price controls resulted in shortages at the point of purchase, causing, for example, queues of consumers at fuelling stations and increased production costs for industry.
Through the mid-1970s, it was alleged that none of the major macroeconomic models (Keynesian, New Classical, and monetarist) were able to explain stagflation.
Later, an explanation was provided based on the effects of adverse supply shocks on both inflation and output.According to Blanchard (2009), these adverse events were one of two components of stagflation; the other was "ideas"—which Robert Lucas, Thomas Sargent, and Robert Barro were cited as expressing as "wildly incorrect" and "fundamentally flawed" predictions (of Keynesian economics) which, they said, left stagflation to be explained by "contemporary students of the business cycle". In this discussion, Blanchard hypothesizes that the recent oil price increases could trigger another period of stagflation, although this has not yet happened (pg. 152).
A purely neoclassical view of the macroeconomy rejects the idea that monetary policy can have real effects.Neoclassical macroeconomists argue that real economic quantities, like real output, employment, and unemployment, are determined by real factors only. Nominal factors like changes in the money supply only affect nominal variables like inflation. The neoclassical idea that nominal factors cannot have real effects is often called monetary neutrality or also the classical dichotomy .
Since the neoclassical viewpoint says that real phenomena like unemployment are essentially unrelated to nominal phenomena like inflation, a neoclassical economist would offer two separate explanations for 'stagnation' and 'inflation'. Neoclassical explanations of stagnation (low growth and high unemployment) include inefficient government regulations or high benefits for the unemployed that give people less incentive to look for jobs. Another neoclassical explanation of stagnation is given by real business cycle theory, in which any decrease in labour productivity makes it efficient to work less. The main neoclassical explanation of inflation is very simple: it happens when the monetary authorities increase the money supply too much.
In the neoclassical viewpoint, the real factors that determine output and unemployment affect the aggregate supply curve only. The nominal factors that determine inflation affect the aggregate demand curve only.When some adverse changes in real factors are shifting the aggregate supply curve left at the same time that unwise monetary policies are shifting the aggregate demand curve right, the result is stagflation.
Thus the main explanation for stagflation under a classical view of the economy is simply policy errors that affect both inflation and the labour market. Ironically, a very clear argument in favour of the classical explanation of stagflation was provided by Keynes himself. In 1919, John Maynard Keynes described the inflation and economic stagnation gripping Europe in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Keynes wrote:
Keynes explicitly pointed out the relationship between governments printing money and inflation.
Keynes also pointed out how government price controls discourage production.
Keynes detailed the relationship between German government deficits and inflation.
While most economists believe that changes in money supply can have some real effects in the short run, neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economists tend to agree that there are no long-run effects from changing the money supply. Therefore, even economists who consider themselves neo-Keynesians usually believe that in the long run, money is neutral. In other words, while neoclassical and neo-Keynesian models are often seen as competing points of view, they can also be seen as two descriptions appropriate for different time horizons. Many mainstream textbooks today treat the neo-Keynesian model as a more appropriate description of the economy in the short run, when prices are 'sticky', and treat the neoclassical model as a more appropriate description of the economy in the long run, when prices have sufficient time to adjust fully.[ citation needed ]
Therefore, while mainstream economists today might often attribute short periods of stagflation (not more than a few years) to adverse changes in supply, they would not accept this as an explanation of very prolonged stagflation. More prolonged stagflation would be explained as the effect of inappropriate government policies: excessive regulation of product markets and labor markets leading to long-run stagnation, and excessive growth of the money supply leading to long-run inflation.[ citation needed ]
Political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler have proposed an explanation of stagflation as part of a theory they call differential accumulation, which says firms seek to beat the average profit and capitalisation rather than maximise. According to this theory, periods of mergers and acquisitions oscillate with periods of stagflation. When mergers and acquisitions are no longer politically feasible (governments clamp down with anti-monopoly rules), stagflation is used as an alternative to have higher relative profit than the competition. With increasing mergers and acquisitions, the power to implement stagflation increases.
Stagflation appears as a societal crisis, such as during the period of the oil crisis in the 70s and in 2007 to 2010. Inflation in stagflation, however, does not affect all firms equally. Dominant firms are able to increase their own prices at a faster rate than competitors. While in the aggregate no one appears to profit, differentially dominant firms improve their positions with higher relative profits and higher relative capitalisation. Stagflation is not due to any actual supply shock, but because of the societal crisis that hints at a supply crisis. It is mostly a 20th and 21st century phenomenon that has been mainly used by the "weapondollar-petrodollar coalition" creating or using Middle East crises for the benefit of pecuniary interests.
Demand-pull stagflation theory explores the idea that stagflation can result exclusively from monetary shocks without any concurrent supply shocks or negative shifts in economic output potential. Demand-pull theory describes a scenario where stagflation can occur following a period of monetary policy implementations that cause inflation. This theory was first proposed in 1999 by Eduardo Loyo of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Supply-side economics emerged as a response to US stagflation in the 1970s. It largely attributed inflation to the ending of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 and the lack of a specific price reference in the subsequent monetary policies (Keynesian and Monetarism). Supply-side economists asserted that the contraction component of stagflation resulted from an inflation-induced rise in real tax rates (see bracket creep)[ citation needed ]
Adherents to the Austrian School maintain that creation of new money ex nihilo benefits the creators and early recipients of the new money relative to late recipients. Money creation is not wealth creation; it merely allows early money recipients to outbid late recipients for resources, goods, and services. Since the actual producers of wealth are typically late recipients, increases in the money supply weakens wealth formation and undermines the rate of economic growth. Says Austrian economist Frank Shostak:
"The increase in the money supply rate of growth coupled with the slowdown in the rate of growth of goods produced is what the increase in the rate of price inflation is all about. (Note that a price is the amount of money paid for a unit of a good.) What we have here is a faster increase in price inflation and a decline in the rate of growth in the production of goods. But this is exactly what stagflation is all about, i.e., an increase in price inflation and a fall in real economic growth. Popular opinion is that stagflation is totally made up. It seems therefore that the phenomenon of stagflation is the normal outcome of loose monetary policy. This is in agreement with [Phelps and Friedman (PF)]. Contrary to PF, however, we maintain that stagflation is not caused by the fact that in the short run people are fooled by the central bank. Stagflation is the natural result of monetary pumping which weakens the pace of economic growth and at the same time raises the rate of increase of the prices of goods and services."
In 1984, journalist and activist Jane Jacobs proposed the failure of major macroeconomic theoriesto explain stagflation was due to their focus on the nation as the salient unit of economic analysis, rather than the city. She proposed that the key to avoiding stagflation was for a nation to focus on the development of "import-replacing cities" that would experience economic ups and downs at different times, providing overall national stability and avoiding widespread stagflation. According to Jacobs, import-replacing cities are those with developed economies that balance their own production with domestic imports—so they can respond with flexibility as economic supply and demand cycles change. While lauding her originality, clarity, and consistency, urban planning scholars have criticized Jacobs for not comparing her own ideas to those of major theorists (e.g., Adam Smith, Karl Marx) with the same depth and breadth they developed, as well as a lack of scholarly documentation. Despite these issues, Jacobs' work is notable for having widespread public readership and influence on decision-makers.
Stagflation undermined support for the Keynesian consensus.
Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker very sharply increased interest rates from 1979–1983 in what was called a "disinflationary scenario". After U.S. prime interest rates had soared into the double-digits, inflation did come down; these interest rates were the highest long-term prime interest rates that had ever existed in modern capital markets. [ citation needed ]Volcker is often credited with having stopped at least the inflationary side of stagflation, although the American economy also dipped into recession. Starting in approximately 1983, growth began a recovery. Both fiscal stimulus and money supply growth were policy at this time. A five- to six-year jump in unemployment during the Volcker disinflation suggests Volcker may have trusted unemployment to self-correct and return to its natural rate within a reasonable period.
Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole. This includes regional, national, and global economies.
Monetarism is a school of thought in monetary economics that emphasizes the role of governments in controlling the amount of money in circulation. Monetarist theory asserts that variations in the money supply have major influences on national output in the short run and on price levels over longer periods. Monetarists assert that the objectives of monetary policy are best met by targeting the growth rate of the money supply rather than by engaging in discretionary monetary policy.
Post-Keynesian economics is a school of economic thought with its origins in The General Theory of John Maynard Keynes, with subsequent development influenced to a large degree by Michał Kalecki, Joan Robinson, Nicholas Kaldor, Sidney Weintraub, Paul Davidson, Piero Sraffa and Jan Kregel. Historian Robert Skidelsky argues that the post-Keynesian school has remained closest to the spirit of Keynes' original work. It is a heterodox approach to economics.
Full employment is a situation in which everyone who wants a job can have work hours they need on fair wages. Because people switch jobs, full employment involves a positive stable rate of unemployment. An economy with full employment might still have underemployment where part-time workers cannot find jobs appropriate to their skill level. In macroeconomics, full employment is sometimes defined as the level of employment at which there is no cyclical or deficient-demand unemployment.
New Keynesian economics is a school of contemporary macroeconomics that strives to provide microeconomic foundations for Keynesian economics. It developed partly as a response to criticisms of Keynesian macroeconomics by adherents of new classical macroeconomics.
In economics and political science, fiscal policy is the use of government revenue collection and expenditure (spending) to influence a country's economy. The use of government revenues and expenditures to influence macroeconomic variables developed as a result of the Great Depression, when the previous laissez-faire approach to economic management became discredited. Fiscal policy is based on the theories of the British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose Keynesian economics indicated that government changes in the levels of taxation and government spending influences aggregate demand and the level of economic activity. Fiscal and monetary policy are the key strategies used by a country's government and central bank to advance its economic objectives. The combination of these policies enables these authorities to target the inflation and to increase employment. Additionally, it is designed to try to keep GDP growth at 2%–3% and the unemployment rate near the natural unemployment rate of 4%–5%. This implies that fiscal policy is used to stabilize the economy over the course of the business cycle.
The business cycle, also known as the economic cycle or trade cycle, is the downward and upward movement of gross domestic product (GDP) around its long-term growth trend. The length of a business cycle is the period of time containing a single boom and contraction in sequence. These fluctuations typically involve shifts over time between periods of relatively rapid economic growth and periods of relative stagnation or decline.
In classical economics, Say's law, or the law of markets, states that "Supply creates its own demand", or that production necessarily increases aggregate demand by an equal amount. Say's Law is sometimes incorrectly said to state that production inherently creates consumption. In his principal work, A Treatise on Political Economy, Jean-Baptiste Say wrote: "A product is no sooner created, than it, from that instant, affords a market for other products to the full extent of its own value." And also, "As each of us can only purchase the productions of others with his own productions – as the value we can buy is equal to the value we can produce, the more men can produce, the more they will purchase."
Neo-Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought that was developed in the post-war period from the writings of John Maynard Keynes. A group of economists, attempted to interpret and formalize Keynes' writings and to synthesize it with the neo-classical models of economics. Their work has become known as the neo-classical synthesis and created the models that formed the core ideas of neo-Keynesian economics. These ideas dominated mainstream economics in the post-war period and formed the mainstream of macroeconomic thought in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Neutrality of money is the idea that a change in the stock of money affects only nominal variables in the economy such as prices, wages, and exchange rates, with no effect on real variables, like employment, real GDP, and real consumption. Neutrality of money is an important idea in classical economics and is related to the classical dichotomy. It implies that the central bank does not affect the real economy by creating money. Instead, any increase in the supply of money would be offset by a proportional rise in prices and wages. This assumption underlies some mainstream macroeconomic models. Others like monetarism view money as being neutral only in the long-run.
The aggregate demand–inflation adjustment model builds on the concepts of the IS–LM model and the AD–AS models, essentially in terms of changing interest rates in response to fluctuations in inflation rather than as changes in the money supply in response to changes in the price level.
Advanced Placement Macroeconomics is an Advanced Placement macroeconomics course for high school students culminating in an exam offered by the College Board.
In monetary economics, the demand for money is the desired holding of financial assets in the form of money: that is, cash or bank deposits rather than investments. It can refer to the demand for money narrowly defined as M1, or for money in the broader sense of M2 or M3.
Monetary inflation is a sustained increase in the money supply of a country. Depending on many factors, especially public expectations, the fundamental state and development of the economy, and the transmission mechanism, it is likely to result in price inflation, which is usually just called "inflation", which is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services.
New classical macroeconomics, sometimes simply called new classical economics, is a school of thought in macroeconomics that builds its analysis entirely on a neoclassical framework. Specifically, it emphasizes the importance of rigorous foundations based on microeconomics, especially rational expectations.
Macroeconomic theory has its origins in the study of business cycles and monetary theory. In general, early theorists believed monetary factors could not affect real factors such as real output. John Maynard Keynes attacked some of these "classical" theories and produced a general theory that described the whole economy in terms of aggregates rather than individual, microeconomic parts. Attempting to explain unemployment and recessions, he noticed the tendency for people and businesses to hoard cash and avoid investment during a recession. He argued that this invalidated the assumptions of classical economists who thought that markets always clear, leaving no surplus of goods and no willing labor left idle.
Inflationism is a heterodox economic, fiscal, or monetary policy, that predicts that a substantial level of inflation is harmless, desirable or even advantageous. Similarly, inflationist economists advocate for an inflationist policy.
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