NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Is The Monetarist Arithmetic Unpleasant?

Martín Uribe

NBER Working Paper No. 22866
Issued in November 2016, Revised in December 2016
NBER Program(s):EFG, IFM, ME

The unpleasant monetarist arithmetic of Sargent and Wallace (1981) states that in a fiscally dominant regime tighter money now can cause higher inflation in the future. In spite of the qualifier ‘unpleasant,’ this result is positive in nature, and, therefore, void of normative content. I analyze conditions under which it is optimal in a welfare sense for the central bank to delay inflation by issuing debt to finance part of the fiscal deficit. The analysis is conducted in the context of a model in which the aforementioned monetarist arithmetic holds, in the sense that if the government finds it optimal to delay inflation, it does so knowing that it would result in higher inflation in the future. The central result of the paper is that delaying inflation is optimal when the fiscal deficit is expected to decline over time.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22866

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