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A preview of policy discussions of inflation

This chapter has focused on how inflation is measured, historical experience with inflation, how to adjust nominal variables into real ones, how inflation affects the economy, and how indexing works. The causes of inflation have barely been hinted at, and government policies to deal with inflation have not been addressed at all. These issues will be taken up in depth in other chapters. However, it is useful to offer a preview here.

The cause of inflation can be summed up in one sentence: Too many dollars chasing too few goods. The great surges of inflation early in the twentieth century came after wars, which are a time when government spending is very high, but consumers have little to buy, because production is going to the war effort. Governments also commonly impose price controls during wartime. After the war, the price controls end and pent-up buying power surges forth, driving up inflation. On the other hand, if too few dollars are chasing too many goods, then inflation will decline or even turn into deflation. Therefore, slowdowns in economic activity, as in major recessions and the Great Depression, are typically associated with a reduction in inflation or even outright deflation.

The policy implications are clear. If inflation is to be avoided, the amount of purchasing power in the economy must grow at roughly the same rate as the production of goods. Macroeconomic policies that the government can use to affect the amount of purchasing power—through taxes, spending, and regulation of interest rates and credit—can thus cause inflation to rise or reduce inflation to lower levels.

A $550 million loaf of bread?

As we will learn in Money and Banking , the existence of money provides enormous benefits to an economy. In a real sense, money is the lubrication that enhances the workings of markets. Money makes transactions easier. It allows people to find employment producing one product, then use the money earned to purchase the other products they need to live on. However, too much money in circulation can lead to inflation. Extreme cases of governments recklessly printing money lead to hyperinflation. Inflation reduces the value of money. Hyperinflation, because money loses value so quickly, ultimately results in people no longer using money. The economy reverts to barter, or it adopts another country’s more stable currency, like U.S. dollars. In the meantime, the economy literally falls apart as people leave jobs and fend for themselves because it is not worth the time to work for money that will be worthless in a few days.

Only national governments have the power to cause hyperinflation. Hyperinflation typically happens when government faces extraordinary demands for spending, which it cannot finance by taxes or borrowing. The only option is to print money—more and more of it. With more money in circulation chasing the same amount (or even less) goods and services, the only result is higher and higher prices until the economy and/or the government collapses. This is why economists are generally wary of letting inflation get out of control.

Key concepts and summary

A payment is said to be indexed if it is automatically adjusted for inflation. Examples of indexing in the private sector include wage contracts with cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) and loan agreements like adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). Examples of indexing in the public sector include tax brackets and Social Security payments.

Problems

If inflation rises unexpectedly by 5%, indicate for each of the following whether the economic actor is helped, hurt, or unaffected:

  1. A union member with a COLA wage contract
  2. Someone with a large stash of cash in a safe deposit box
  3. A bank lending money at a fixed rate of interest
  4. A person who is not due to receive a pay raise for another 11 months

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Rosalie the Retiree knows that when she retires in 16 years, her company will give her a one-time payment of $20,000. However, if the inflation rate is 6% per year, how much buying power will that $20,000 have when measured in today’s dollars? Hint : Start by calculating the rise in the price level over the 16 years.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

References

Wines, Michael. “How Bad is Inflation in Zimbabwe?” The New York Times , May 2, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/02/world/africa/02zimbabwe.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Hanke, Steve H. “R.I.P. Zimbabwe Dollar.” CATO Institute . Accessed December 31, 2013. http://www.cato.org/zimbabwe.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2015. "Billion Prices Project." Accessed March 4, 2015. http://bpp.mit.edu/usa/.

Questions & Answers

WHY DEVELOP COUNTRIES RELY ON DEVELOPED COUNTRIES?
Ben Reply
what is the determination of aggregate demand?
Maddy Reply
classical dichotomy and its components?
Romaisa Reply
what will happen to the demand curve when there is an inflation in an economy
Hamza Reply
From my view, I think the demand curve will shift inwards.
Bobo
now it depends on what kind of inflation it is, depending on the type of inflation the movement of the demand curve can be stated.
Munimu
yes it depends on the cause for inflation. if it caused by maybe an increase in money supply, the effect is neutral in the long term, therefore there are no effects on total output in the economy, except for an increase in price
Lucas
but short term in general i think you could expect the demand curve to shift inwards as consumers experience a decrease in real income
Lucas
source of capital for the sole trader
Dogbey Reply
borrowing from relatives, government grants, bank loans, personal savings, credit card etc.
Munimu
Suppose you are holding 2000 in a checking account and the price level decrease by 20 %how much it will affect your purchasing power and why
Iqra Reply
Hi Iqra, will answer your question soon.
Aleem
2000*0.2= 400 2000-400= 1600
Munimu
1600
Munimu
a price level decrease is deflation. it means you'll be able to afford to buy more with your 2000 and your real income becomes 2000÷(100-20)=2500
Lucas
the amount will decrease to 1600 and you can't be able to buy over this amount
Agogo
As an economist student discuss how the pandemic covid19 can affect the aggregate demand and aggregate supply thereby leading to decrease in GDP and standard of living of citizens of nigeria
Fadila Reply
hi how can you help me?
qusai Reply
can you send me the notes
Mohd
hello is what are you talking about?
Mousa
unemployment and low inflation    .
Abdirizaq Reply
Structure/Organization Of The Federal Reserve
Abdirizaq
sorry guys in macroeconomics what is different between inflation and intrest rate? please example for pandemic related maybe?
Siyanda
hello
Ramu
Is this Aap for class 11 and 12 only not for graduation?
ankit Reply
yeah like for du MA entrance
VAISHALI
okay
ankit
Aree i m also asking
VAISHALI
for du MA entrance. u shouldn't rely on app. Go for SAURABH SIR notes. available on flipkart.
Saurabh
ohh thanks
VAISHALI
pleasure
Saurabh
ooh
ankit
hello...how can I get full notes?
DR
what is inflation
Bright Reply
hike in price
shola
situation of rise in price with the fall in purchasing power of money
Almina
cycle of corruption
Omkar
rise in price of a Nation economy in terms of trade
adebiyi
what is distruptive international trade?
NOEL
meaning of inflation
Jayakumar Reply
increase in general prices level in an economy.
Tayyab
increase in general price level
Abu
The fall in standard of living because goods and services become expensive.
NOEL
what is value added and how is it used in calculating GDP
Benedicta Reply
value added is final price of output minus cost of production. For example, let's say you make a shirt with raw materials that cost $20, and then sell the shirt for $35 added value would be 35-20=15. In calculating GDP, it is used to avoid double counting goods. Exp. eggs individually and in bread.
julian
as the price of tickets rises from $200 to $250, what is the price elasticity of demand for business travelers, vacationers using midpoint method
Buumba Reply
$300
Jb
@jb how do uget $300
Jeff
It means you are measuring the cost against availability.
Muyiwa
Explain how income taxes and transfer payments are used to stabilize the economy
Nakagwa Reply
reduce demand on scarce resources by reducing money supply.
NOEL

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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