Exorcising Inflation

From an economic point of view the history of the world since 1939 might  be described as 'The Age of Inflation'. In several countries, especially those devastated by war and in South America, currencies have become practically worthless. Most other countries have experienced steadily rising prices. In the United Kingdom, where the phrases 'As good as gold' or 'As safe as the Bank of England' originated, prices have been rising continuously since 1939, and the pound sterling in 1993 is worth about one twenty fifth (or 4 per cent) of its 1939 value. Clearly, during this period money has totally failed to fulfil one of its three essential functions -- acting as a store of wealth -- and it has served most unsatisfactorily as a unit of account and a medium of exchange. Is inflation inevitable?

However, two things might be said about this world-wife inflation. First, there is the suggestion that it does not matter, or indeed that it actually stimulated economic activity, because for the period 1945-1970 the world experienced a period of unprecedented full employment and prosperity. And second, because all those under the age of 54 have lived with inflation throughout their lives, it might be said that inflation is inevitable; that the achievement of stable prices is a utopian fantasy and therefore not worth serious consideration.

Much of this Paper is devoted to refuting the first argument -- that inflation is usually beneficial to economic growth. But it is also necessary to destroy the fallacious notion that inflation is inevitable.

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