Monetary Mystification

Central banks on both sides of the Atlantic took extraordinary monetary-policy measures in September, sending stock markets soaring. But politicians – and markets – in both Europe and America are mistaken if they believe that monetary policy can restore economic growth and boost employment.

NEW YORK – Central banks on both sides of the Atlantic took extraordinary monetary-policy measures in September: the long awaited “QE3” (the third dose of quantitative easing by the United States Federal Reserve), and the European Central Bank’s announcement that it will purchase unlimited volumes of troubled eurozone members’ government bonds. Markets responded euphorically, with stock prices in the US, for example, reaching post-recession highs.

Others, especially on the political right, worried that the latest monetary measures would fuel future inflation and encourage unbridled government spending.

In fact, both the critics’ fears and the optimists’ euphoria are unwarranted. With so much underutilized productive capacity today, and with immediate economic prospects so dismal, the risk of serious inflation is minimal.

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