Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 24 May 2002

Working Paper no. 155
Edward Nelson and Kalin Nikolov

The volatile data for inflation, output, and interest rates in the United Kingdom prior to the 1990s, and the relative macroeconomic stability associated with inflation targeting, provide a rich basis for discriminating between rival explanations for the outbreak of stagflation. We examine alternative hypotheses with a New Keynesian model of aggregate demand and inflation determination, estimated on quarterly UK data for 1959–2000. Our model features IS and Phillips curves based on optimising behaviour, and fully incorporates the distinction between detrended output and the output gap stressed by optimising analysis. Using simulations of our model as well as information on the ‘real-time’ views of policy-makers, we test alternative explanations for the outbreak of inflation in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. We find that inaccurate estimates of the degree of excess demand in the economy contributed significantly to the outbreak. But we also find a major role for the failure at the time to recognise the importance of monetary policy, as opposed to non-monetary devices, in controlling inflation.

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