It’s a sign of desperation that the latest cure being suggested for the ailing economy is higher inflation. In the 1970s and early 1980s, inflation (peaking at 13 percent in 1979 and 1980) was a national curse. Now, it’s being advanced as an antidote to high unemployment and meager economic growth. It’s bad advice for the Federal Reserve, which holds its annual research retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyo., this week. What seems plausible in the classroom would probably backfire in the real world.
The economy’s central problem today is lack of confidence – fear – reflecting enormous uncertainty. Business managers and consumers don’t know what to expect. Facing stubborn joblessness, falling home values and volatile stock prices, they have become reflexively defensive. They hoard and hold back. A deliberate policy of higher inflation risks compounding the uncertainty and poisoning psychology even more.