Unreal desires for deflation

It’s clear some people just don’t get that deflation is catastrophic from an economic perspective. You would have though that Japan’s lost decade (is it still only a decade?) would be sufficient warning.

Michael Pento from Euro Pacific capital writes about the options open Bernanke to stimulate the US economy through open market purchases given that interest rates are up against the zero bound.

He’s right about the options, but horribly misguided when it comes to wishing for deflation:

By keeping prices from falling more that they would have naturally, Fed intervention has created a burden.

The US public (and private) debt is such a significant portion of GDP, the correct answer cannot be to increase it as a percentage of GDP by deflating prices and keeping the nominal value of outstanding debt the same. Moreover, what the US needs is economic activity; encouraging everyone to leave their money in the bank because it increase in value every day and “nobody else is spending so deflation will continue” doesn’t sound like a success story to me. Downward price stickiness, particularly with wages (yes, even in the US) would add to the catastrophe.

Pent also raises the risk of hyperinflation:

…investors would be forced to once again abandon savings and chase runaway prices.

I don’t know how we went from fears of deflation to “runaway prices”. The challenge with this policy is to credibly promise moderate inflation for several years (depending on how strong your Ricardian views are).

Runaway prices are much easier to control than deflation. With inflation, we actually have a range of tools to use.

It’s unreal how many people have views on the economy that aren’t rooted in any economic theory at all.

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

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