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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

what is demand
Melissa Reply
demand is where the customer is willing and able to buy goods and services during a given period of time
idk
demand is the ability and willingness of an individual to buy goods and services at a given price in a particular period of time
Alpha
demand is the ability to buy a specific quantities of goods and services at a given price and at a specific period of time
rosemary
what are the rules of demand
rosemary
Rosemary Nsebon, Do you mean laws of demand?
Alpha
Suppose you have a team of two workers: one is a baker and one is a chef. Explain why the kitchen can produce more meals in a given period of time if each worker specializes in what they do best than if each worker tries to do everything from appetizer to dessert. please I need a urgent answer
Oladosu Reply
Enables individuals and countries to consume a variety of goods and services
Iddrisu
what is the meaning of competency
Oladosu Reply
competency is an ability and courage to do something perfectly
Abdullahi
ability to perform some task
Segun
rival
Ray
thanks 🙏 it is also the same with the core competency
Oladosu
A sufficient supply
Ebenezer
Ebenezer you mean the (core competency) right?
Oladosu
what is mean,median and mode
Ikeh Reply
mean is the average number of a given data
Gallant
median is the middle number of a given data
Gallant
in a given data sorry
Mitchel
hi
Sajib
Pls am new here
Physcal
what are development bank in Nigeria
Adedigba Reply
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Physcal
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Adedigba
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Physcal
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Rosie
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Rosie
hi how are dears
Mumtaz
how can we development economic in our country
Mumtaz
hi
Charm
Payroll and​ 4p
Wasuroj
Agriculture
Wasuroj
Export
Wasuroj
Transport
Wasuroj
Change management​ and​ cerrancy
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Empoyee
Wasuroj
Lawyer army and​ Lawyer​
Wasuroj
animal husbandry essay
Rakuane Reply
what's the primary location of capital and money market respectively
ALIMI
what is bank
Nyakeh Reply
A bank is an institution set up purposely for the save keeping of money and other valuables
Alpha
When a supply curve start from the origin price elasticity of supply is unitory. Provide a simple proof
Felix Reply
Oui
Bobbo
please help someone should help me this question
Felix
ok
Anita
what is price
Divine Reply
the perchesing amount of something is called price
Nasir
OK pls tell me about economic elasticity of supply and demand
Mumtaz Reply
elasticity in economics is a measurement of the ratio of percentage change in quantity of a particular commodity to the percentage change in a factor that influence demand-price, consumer's income and price of another good
Epie
same with supply. How ever economics focus only on price elasticity of supply(PES)
Epie
using diagrams defferentiate between price ceiling and price floors
VIDELIS Reply
price ceiling lies below the equilibrium price and vice versa
Freeman
who is a broker
ALIMI Reply
a broker is a middle person between two other parties who makes all the arrangements required to conduct the the transaction.
rkesh
when do we apply contractiob
Emma Reply
make your statement clear
Freeman
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Mumtaz
I am a student and studying BBA economic in university please help me in study of BBA
Mumtaz
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Wasuroj
Thanks
Mumtaz
what is BBA
Rosaline
Bachelor of the Business Administration
parheez
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Rosaline
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Alphonso Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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