Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Uncle Milton

I wouldn't mind a real economist explaining this basic point a bit better than I have been trying to, but I haven't seen any try! Maybe I am dumb!

My take is that Friedman wasn't correct here, but "we" think about inflation as if he was. That is, there is a basic conceptual model of "persistent increases in the price level" which essentially we define as a "monetary phenomenon," but not all increases in the price level are a monetary phenomenon. Fed intervention in this case isn't just about adjusting the knobs and levers a bit. It's more curing the pain in your leg by chopping it off. Yes, if your goal was to stop the leg pain this will (eventually) work, but.

Anyway, the lefty view on this is something like:

1) Modest inflation isn't that big of a deal, and the inflation target should be higher than it has been, though people might believe it is even if their real wages are keeping up.

2) People who want to "cure" the actual ills of inflation (falling real wages) by taking actions which (by their own admission!) by slowing wage growth or worse perhaps aren't too concerned about falling real wages!!!

3) A big chunk of of "inflation" now is due to vertical supply curves! Pick your reasons: shipping bottlenecks, market power abuse, general struggles with turning the economy off (and firing a bunch of skilled workers) and turning it on again (hey where did all the skilled workers go). The big profits are the clue!!

4) Cutting off the leg might cure the pain, but also might cause gangrene!