The Politics of Inflation and Economic Stagnation
The inflation of the 1970s represented the greatest peacetime disruption of the Western economies since the Depression. Even as inflation receded, the recession in its wake brought more joblessness than at any time since the 1930s. The governments of industrialized nations found that the economic policies they had developed since World War II no longer assured price stability or high employment. What are the lessons of over a decade of economic difficulty? In this conference volume, which focuses on aspects of the crisis that economists often presuppose to be beyond control, the authors analyze the political and social underpinning of inflation and recession. Part 1 places the economic problems of the 1970s in the historical context of postwar development and then compares economic and political science analyses of inflation. Part 2 examines how rivalries between social groups affect inflationary processes. One chapter draws on the history of Latin American inflation to suggest the conflicts in play. Two others weigh the role of labor and industry in the formation of economic policy. And another shows how rivalry between countries, like rivalry between classes at home, permitted inflation to rise. The chapters in part 3 contest the claim that big government or big labor causes inflation. Two studies emphasize that a high degree of public expenditure does not itself lead to inflation. Further contributions explore the role of central banks and subject such concepts as the political business cycle to critical analysis. Part 4 comprises case studies about macroeconomic policymaking in four nations: Italy, Germany, Japan, and Sweden. The studies reveal what institutional attributes rendered those countries resistant to inflation or vulnerable to economic setback. In the last part, the editors pull together the findings and lay out the contemporary political feasibility of alternative approaches to macroeconomic management.