MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Even When There Is Inflation, the Fed STILL Fights Falling Prices

Posted by M. C. on June 15, 2022

 Instead, the central scenario is surely that the Fed has flooded the system with so much money (only some of the excess removed during the period of hawkish turn and taking account of cumulative price rises) that the natural downward rhythm of prices will not show up in outward reality. Rather, the Fed will use the relief from symptoms of inflation in the consumer price data to double down on monetary inflation. This would show up at first in a new episode of asset inflation.

The more government helps…

https://mises.org/wire/even-when-there-inflation-fed-still-fights-falling-prices

Brendan Brown

Under any remotely sound money regime the aftermath of war and/or pandemic is highly likely to feature a sharp decline in the prices of goods and services on average. Even under unsound money regimes there are powerful forces operating towards lower prices once the war/pandemic recedes. Strong injections of monetary inflation, however, can overpower them.

The Fed and all the foreign central banks which follow its lead and/or doctrines are apparently of the intention that this time the decline in prices will not take place. Instead, they state the aim of their monetary policies, to be achieved within two years, as a decline of the inflation rate from present near-term highs to 2 percent.

In combatting the powerful “natural rhythm” of prices downwards in the aftermath of pandemic and war we should expect the Fed and foreign central banks to marshal a tremendous amount of monetary power. That will occur beyond an intermission where central banks are ostensibly trying to rein back the monetary inflation which has reached its peak virulence in 2021–22. 

Precise measurement of monetary inflation, including its stages, is impossible under the present monetary regime where the supply and demand conditions for monetary base—and the attributes of base money—have been deeply corrupted. In thinking about the next monetary inflation injections, history provides considerable insight.

The aftermaths of supply shocks are full of inflation danger, even though recession intervenes and mitigates this for some time. Monetary inflation has accompanied all the great supply shocks and sometimes preceded them as in the present case of pandemic and war. Here monetary inflation stretches all the way back to 2012/13.

In the aftermath of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic (1918–19), US consumer prices fell by around 20 percent (from mid-1920 to end-1921). The fall in prices stemmed both from deliberate monetary deflation (starting in late 1919 as the Benjamin Strong–dominated Fed sought to reverse the monetary inflation in the half-year following the armistice) and the easing of supply restraints (with huge gluts developing for many primary commodities). 

After World War II there was an almost 5 percent decline in CPI from mid-1948 to the end of 1949, overlapping the recession of November1948 to October 1949. There was no sudden substantial monetary policy tightening during that time. But the around 30 percent rise of consumer prices during 1946–47 coupled with the constancy in outstanding supply of high-powered money stock meant this shrunk far in real terms. Accordingly, the overhang of excess money supply dwindled. 

Towards the end of the Korean War (1950–53) and into its aftermath consumer prices were relatively flat (mid-1952–55), having risen by almost 12 percent between mid-1950 and the end of 1951. That was despite the McChesney Martin Fed following an inflationary monetary policy as evident first in asset inflation and later in an eruption of consumer price inflation (the second half of the 1950s). In effect the “natural rhythm” downward of prices as wartime constraints eased and a sustained leap in productivity growth got under way meant that monetary inflation did not produce at first the symptom of consumer price inflation.

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