It is never too early to fear inflation

Bromley illustration

Is it too soon to worry about rising prices? Inflation hawks have been speaking up in the US lately, but are not getting much of a hearing. “The economy is still limping, job losses are still rising, and consumers are still reluctant to open their wallets. So it’s the perfect time to worry about inflation?” asks the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki incredulously in a recent column.

He tries to take the idea seriously, but not very hard. The economy has plenty of spare capacity; productivity is surging; inflation expectations – from the interest rate on US inflation-indexed bonds – are low, he points out. “Then why are people afraid that inflation is about to get out of control? Because they’re always afraid that inflation is about to get out of control.”

This is not even about economics, he reckons. It is a kind of twisted moralism. Inflation hawks are puritans obsessing over monetary turpitude and the debasement of the currency. Many are Republicans. Best ignore them.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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