Is it possible to decrease inflation without causing a recession and its concomitant increase line in unemployment? The orthodox answer is “no.” whether they support the “inertia” theory of inflation (that today’s inflation rate is caused by yesterday’s inflation, the state of the economic cycle, and external influences such as import prices) or the “rational expectations” theory (that inflation is caused by workers’ and employers’ expectations, coupled with a lack of credible monetary and fiscal policies), most economists agree that tight monetary and fiscal policies, which cause recessions, are necessary to decelerate inflation. They point out that in the 1980’s, many European countries and the United States conquered high (by these countries’ standards) inflation, but only by applying tight monetary and fiscal policies that sharply increased unemployment. Nevertheless, some governments’ policymakers insist that direct controls on wages and prices, without tight monetary and fiscal policies, can succeed in decreasing inflation. Unfortunately, because this approach fails to deal with the underlying causes of inflation, wage and price controls eventually collapse, the hitherto-repressed inflation resurfaces, and in the meantime, though the policy-makers succeed in avoiding a recession, a frozen structure of relative prices imposes distortions that do damage to the economy’s prospects for longterm growth.
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