What Inflation Would Look Like in a True Free-Market Economy
There is nothing more substantive than Bernanke’s original finger-in-the-air proposition that the Fed needed a 200 basis point cushion in the inflation rate in order to steer the economy clear of the dreaded 0.0% inflation line, the other side of which allegedly amounted to a black hole of deflationary demise.
But here’s the thing. There is not a shred of historical evidence that the US economy needs a 2.00% inflation guardrail to thrive, or any fixed rate of inflation at all.
For instance, even during the most difficult period of the 20th century—from 1921 to 1946 when the US economy experienced the Roaring Twenties boom, the Great Depression bust and the WWII rebound—there was abundant net economic growth over the period as a whole, accompanied by zero inflation.
In fact, the US economy nearly tripled in size during that quarter-century period. Real GDP expanded at a robust 3.64% per annum rate, and real GDP per capita rose by 2.55% per annum.
By contrast, between the 2007 pre-crisis peak and 2021, real GDP grew at only half that rate (1.72% per annum), while per capita real GDP increased by just 1.04% per year. That was just two-fifths of the rate of annual gain during 1921-1946.
Needless to say, it didn’t take any 2.00% inflationary guard rails to generate the salutary outcomes cited above for 1921-1946. The CPI index shown below posted at 542 in February 2021 and 541 a quarter century later in May 1946.
Purchasing Power of the Dollar, 1921 to 1946
As it had unfolded, there was zero CPI inflation during the Roaring Twenties; a severe deflation during the Great Depression, which merely reversed the war inflation of 1915-1920; and then a return to the 1921 price level during the booming but regimented economy of WWII.
Still, by the spring of 1946 the dollar’s pur
Article from LewRockwell