James Pethokoukis, writing for “The Week,” has a column taking note of the fear of inflation among certain conservative lawmakers and thinkers which is seemingly resistant to data.
As Ron Paul, the libertarian former GOP congressman and presidential candidate, said back in 2009: “More inflation is absolutely the wrong way to go. We’re taking a recession and trying to turn it into a depression. We’re going to see a real calamity.”
Many GOP politicians have since echoed Paul’s prediction. But the Next Great Inflation never happened. The Consumer Price Index, including food and energy, has risen by an annual average of just 1.6 percent since 2008, below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target. During the Great Inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, by contrast, prices rose five times faster.
Instead of being relieved that inflation hasn’t materialized, some folks are apparently insisting that inflation really is high, the government statistics are wrong.
He speculates on the reasons for the impulse to see inflation around every corner:
Why this GOP inflation obsession? Maybe it’s a legacy of how rapidly rising prices in the 1970s swept conservatives into power in both America and Great Britain. Maybe it’s how many conservative talk radio shows are sponsored by gold companies who stand to benefit from inflation hysteria. Maybe it’s a belief that every single economic metric must be a nightmare under President Obama.
I’m not convinced those reasons are really on the mark. There might be some of that, but probably the deeper reasons are elsewhere; particularly in the case of someone like Ron Paul.
Ron Paul sees little use for government outside of preserving property rights. Inflation tends to hurt creditors more than debtors. So, in that sense, inflation tends to impair property rights. Furthermore, the spending policies they see as leading to inflation tend to tax the wealthy in order to provide services to the poor (or at least less wealthy). That sort of policy impairs property rights as well. My guess, then, is that if you see someone who worries about inflation more than the data would seem to justify, you’ll find someone with a very deep concern for property rights almost to the exclusion of other sorts of rights.