Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Monday, March 10, 2008


In his column in Slate, the usually-reliable Dan Gross writes:

The stag? Gross domestic product rose at an annual rate of only 0.6
percent in the fourth quarter of 2007 and probably isn't doing much better
today. The flation? The
Consumer Price Index rose 4.3 percent between January 2007 and January 2008.

The numbers seem positively buoyant compared with our last serious bout
of stagflation in the
late 1970s, when inflation rates spiked to double-digit levels and mortgage rates were in the high teens. Compared with the mountain of economic woes in the late Carter years [emphasis added], the economic woes of the late Bush years are a mole hill. But that doesn't mean those fretting about stagflation are
crying wolf.

The only problem is that the late-1970s were not really a period of stagflation. Inflation, yes. The rate of inflation averaged about 7.8% per year between 1975 and 1980. But economic growth was strong, averaging more than 5% between 1975 and the spring of 1978. Only then did growth slow, and even then it remained above 1% per year until early in 1980.

We remember the late-1970s as a period of stagflation, but those memories are, essentially, wrong.


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