Binyamin Appelbaum had an interesting post about how many economists would like to see a higher rate of inflation to help recover from the downturn. The piece emphasizes the role of inflation in lowering real wages, with the argument that lower real wages are necessary to increase employment.
While there may be some truth to this point, it is worth fleshing out the argument more fully. At any point in time, there are sectors in which demand is increasing and we would expect to see rising real wages and also sectors where demand is falling and we would expect to see real wages do the same (e.g. Wall Street traders -- okay, that was a dream).
Anyhow, when inflation is very low, the only way to bring about declines in real wages in these sectors is by having lower nominal wages. Since workers resist nominal pay cuts, we end up not having this adjustment and therefore we end up with fewer jobs than would otherwise be the case. However it is an important qualification in this story that it is not about reducing real wages for all workers, only for some subset.
The other important point is that higher inflation promotes growth in other ways. First and foremost it makes investment more profitable by reducing real interest rates. Firms are considering spending money today to sell more output (e.g. software, computers, Twitter derivatives etc.) in the future. If they expect to sell this output for higher prices because of inflation, then they will find it more profitable to invest today. If we can keep interest rates more or less constant and raise the expected rate of inflation, then firms will have much more incentive to invest. This process seems to be working successfully in Japan at the moment.
Finally, inflation reduces debt burdens. Everyone who has debt in nominal dollars, such as homeowners, students, state and local governments, and the national government, will see the real value of its debt fall in response to inflation. This reduces their debt burden and makes it easier to spend. This would likely also be an important source of demand growth from higher inflation.
While many economists do emphasize the wage story, to my mind the other parts are likely more important. And, if higher inflation leads to more employment, this will increase workers' bargaining power and allow them to achieve wage gains that are likely to quickly offset any losses due to inflation -- although the Wall Street traders may not make up the lost ground.
Let me make a quick comment to clear up unnecessary confusion (can't do much about the deliberate confusion). The notion of inflation being a way to lower wages in the U.S. refers to the wages of some workers, not all workers. There are always industries seeing increased demand and some seeing reduced demand. The response to the latter would be lower wages. That is difficult to bring about in a situation of near zero inflation and nominal wage rigidity. By having higher inflation so that real wages can fall in these industries, we can increase employment, output, and real wages more generally. That is the argument. Folks can say why that may not work, but it's really not worth anyone's time to deliberately misrepresent it so you can say it's stupid.
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