Le fantôme du futur de l’inflation

DIJON – Face à tous les problèmes qui affligent l'économie mondiale aujourd'hui, l'inflation semble être le cadet de nos soucis. Dans leur recherche de solutions au malaise économique post 2008, provoqué par le surendettement, les responsables politiques ont raison de mettre l'accent sur la menace de la déflation par la dette, qui pourrait conduire à une dépression.

Cependant, reléguer l'inflation en tant que «  problème d'hier » pourrait saper les efforts des banques centrales en vue de résoudre les problèmes les plus pressants de notre époque – et, à terme, pourrait faciliter la résurgence de l'inflation. La compréhension de la manière dont la Grande Inflation qui a sévi de la fin des années 1960 jusqu’au début des années 1980 a été maîtrisée offre des leçons importantes pour la résolution de problèmes économiques profonds, aussi différents que les nôtre puissent être, et permet de mieux comprendre les dangers qui nous attendent.

La première leçon utile concerne les attentes. Durant les décennies qui ont suivi la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la doctrine selon laquelle il fallait choisir entre faible inflation et emploi – basée sur la relation que William Phillips a décrite en 1958 – représentait la pensée économique dominante. Mais la courbe de Phillips s’est révélée  problématique dans les années 1970, quand de nombreux pays ont connu une « stagflation » (des taux élevés à la fois d’inflation et de chômage).

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