Paul Lachine

Is Stimulus Still Necessary?

Conservative-minded economists argue that economic stimulus produces only higher prices, because people spend more money on the same quantity of goods and services. But stimulus packages around the world arrested the slide into depression, and the time to start worrying about inflation is when the recovery is entrenched.

LONDON – Have stimulus packages brought the world’s traumatized economies back to life? Or have they set the scene for inflation and big future debt burdens? The answer is that they may have done both. The key question now concerns the order in which these outcomes occur.

The theory behind the massive economic stimulus efforts that many governments have undertaken rests on the notion of the “output gap.” This is the difference between an economy’s actual output and its potential output. If actual output is below potential output, this means that total spending is insufficient to buy what the economy can produce.

A stimulus is a government-engineered boost to total spending. Government can either spend more money itself, or try to stimulate private spending by cutting taxes or lowering interest rates. This will raise actual output to the level of potential output, thereby closing the output gap.

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