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Trading Economics: A Guide to Economic Statistics for Practitioners and Students by Victoria Turton, Trevor Williams

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4 Inflation

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.

Milton Friedman1

WHAT IS INFLATION?

Inflation tells us the changing (increasing) price of a range of goods or services; basically how much of something we can get for our money. The rate of change of prices – the speed at which the price of goods and services that are bought by households or businesses alter – is called inflation. But prices can also fall, in a process called deflation, sometimes termed negative inflation. Inflation is more common than deflation, or at least it has been in the last 50 years or so, and so it has become associated with changes in the price of goods and services. Historically, however, price falls were as common as price rises, as we will see later.

Both inflation and deflation have advantages and disadvantages, which we will explore in more detail later in this chapter.

THE HISTORY OF INFLATION

Inflation has been around for a long time, but, as Figure 4.1 shows, the level of prices (the index) really only rose consistently and sharply in the UK from the 1970s onwards. This was after the US came off the gold standards and the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, which had prevailed after the Second World War, ended. Money was now backed by government fiat and trust rather than by gold. And exchange rates were no longer fixed but allowed to float freely. ...

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