Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nobel Topic

Edmund Phelps wins the Nobel Memorial Prize “for his analysis of intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy,” and it takes me two whole days to realize that this is the perfect opportunity to resurrect all my old posts about the NAIRU. (Prof. Phelps invented it, kind of.) OK: here*, here, here, here, here, here, and here (and see the links and the comments to those posts). Or just read the June archives.

More recently, the topic of the Phillips curve has come up (in August) here, here, and here. The point is that Prof. Phelps’ research, and the subsequent acceptance of much of his conclusion, did not eliminate the Phillips curve concept; it merely revised the concept.

The posts from June relate to a more recent attack on the “post-Phelpsian” Phillips curve (possibly with the intent of reinstating the “pre-Phelpsian” Phillips curve, although it’s never quite clear to me). As argued recently by Dean Baker, the NAIRU doesn’t work any more (witness the late 1990s, when the unemployment rate went far below the consensus NAIRU without sparking inflation). In my real-life personality, however, I was arguing as far back as 1994 (along with a few others) that the US NAIRU was falling. As an “out-of-consensus NAIRU guy,” I have never been obliged to discard the NAIRU theory or to come up with extraordinary means of life support for it. By my measures, it did just fine in the late 90s.

But maybe I speak to soon. By my measures, the NAIRU today is about 4%, but the unemployment rate is well above 4%, and yet it appears that inflation is accelerating. My explanation, of course, is that oil prices are the problem. But oil prices are much less of a problem now than they were a few months ago. Circumstances are forcing me to make a falsifiable prediction here: the core inflation rate will come down. When you notice that the core inflation rate is coming down faster than expected, you’ll see that my version of the NAIRU theory has been vindicated. Or else it won’t, and you won’t, and I’ll have to come up with a new theory….


*If you want to follow the argument in my first link above, it’s important to look at the first link within, which leads here, and then click on "Comments" at the bottom of that link. But pay no attention to the woman behind the screen. The blogger formerly known as Angelica is now the retroactively anonymous Battlepanda. (The discussion from the cited post also continues here, which I’m sure is linked in one of my posts above also.)

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8 Comments:

Blogger TStockmann said...

Care to offer a (say, quarterly) time frame for your prediction of receding core inflation?

Wed Oct 11, 05:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gabriel Mihalache said...

You should dig through the archives more often! I didn't knew some of the post you linked.

As for the subject... the entire business seems to me to be somewhat undefined... the passion put into this discussion by those involved seems premature to me, given the theory.

It's hard for me to look at the different ideas on the NAIRU discussed in those many posts and choose one of them... It's all very speculative.

Wed Oct 11, 06:08:00 PM EDT  
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