For those with memories of hyper-inflation and “stagflation” in the 1970s, these cogent pleas for higher prices is heresy, an irresponsible clamor for the return of an ever-changing fiscal landscape that led to widespread misery and economic turmoil.
A little history. By the mid-’70s the Western world was engulfed in an inflation typhoon — with prices rising rapidly and out of control. As companies increased prices to keep up with the higher costs of basic raw materials — such as oil, deliberately hiked way beyond the norm by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — trade unions demanded higher wages to protect their members’ standard of living. This led to higher costs, and higher prices, and so on.
The world became entangled in an apparently unstoppable upward spiral, like a crazy dog chasing its tail. Governments were blamed for it and broken by it, and new bold champions promising to slaughter the inflation dragon were elected in their place.
President Ronald Reagan here and Margaret Thatcher in Britain largely owed their precipitous rise to voters’ weariness with the curse of inflation. And they both turned to economist Milton Friedman as a savior.