Archive for October 9th, 2021

In a recent forum held by the ECB (ECB Forum on Central Banking 2021: Part 4 – Panel 1: The future of inflation, see min. 15:40 – 26:20), Professor Charles Goodhart criticised central banks for relying too much on what he called the ‘bootstrap theory of inflation’, one that affirms that ‘as long as inflation expectations are anchored inflation will also remain anchored’. Therefore, this theory mainly explains inflation according to changes in inflation expectations. Charles Goodhart also summarised the reasons why we shouldn’t rely too much on such a theory of inflation. In what he referred to as the absence of a general theory of inflation by central banks and other policy actors and international organisations, there seems to be a preference for a ‘bits and pieces’ approach to inflation; one that incorporates inflation of commodities, inflation in services, shipping shortages, … among many other indicators, without the proper analytical theoretical framework to support it. In his brief presentation Charles Goodhart stressed the need to incorporate supply side factors in the explanation of inflation trends in the long term. Do not miss it. In just 10 minutes he summarises the poor state of macroeconomics as regards the explanation of inflation, which can lead to also very poor policy decisions.

In my opinion, there is such a general theory of inflation/deflation; one that links changes in the amount of money broadly defined and changes in the price level over the medium to the long term. I don’t claim that this theory can explain every single change in inflation, particularly on a monthly basis, but indeed it does explain changes in inflation trends. The ECB should rely much more on its own monetary pillar to explain changes in inflation in the right time horizon (1-2 years). It missed an excellent opportunity to do so in its recent review of its monetary strategy.

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