Monetary policy: it’s mostly fiscal

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon…Government spending may or may not be inflationary. It clearly will be inflationary if it is financed by creating money, that is, by printing currency or creating bank deposits. If it is financed by taxes or by borrowing from the public, the main effect is that the government spends the funds instead of the taxpayer or instead of the lender or instead of the person who would otherwise have borrowed the funds. Fiscal policy is extremely important in determining what fraction of total national income is spent by government and who bears the burden of that expenditure. By itself, it is not important for inflation.

–Milton Friedman, “The Counter-Revolution in Monetary Theory” (emphasis in original)

Friedman’s idea was radical when he suggested it in 1970, but it has since become boringly mainstream. Nowadays the standard line is that central banks have all the power and (usually) offset the impact of fiscal policy changes.

So it was refreshing to read a speech by Christopher Sims at this year’s Jackson Hole economic symposium suggesting that the common view has things backwards. To the extent central banks have any impact on inflation, it’s by tricking elected officials:

Continue reading: Monetary policy: it’s mostly fiscal

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon…Government spending may or may not be inflationary. It clearly will be inflationary if it is financed by creating money, that is, by printing currency or creating bank deposits. If it is financed by taxes or by borrowing from the public, the main effect is that the government spends the funds instead of the taxpayer or instead of the lender or instead of the person who would otherwise have borrowed the funds. Fiscal policy is extremely important in determining what fraction of total national income is spent by government and who bears the burden of that expenditure. By itself, it is not important for inflation.

–Milton Friedman, “The Counter-Revolution in Monetary Theory” (emphasis in original)

Friedman’s idea was radical when he suggested it in 1970, but it has since become boringly mainstream. Nowadays the standard line is that central banks have all the power and (usually) offset the impact of fiscal policy changes.

So it was refreshing to read a speech by Christopher Sims at this year’s Jackson Hole economic symposium suggesting that the common view has things backwards. To the extent central banks have any impact on inflation, it’s by tricking elected officials:

Continue reading: Monetary policy: it’s mostly fiscal