Der Phelps-Faktor

Am 10. Dezember erhält Edmund Phelps, mein Kollege an der Columbia-Universität, den Nobelpreis für Wirtschaftswissenschaften 2006. Diese Auszeichnung war lange überfällig. Während das Nobelpreiskomitee in seiner Begründung Phelps’ Arbeiten im Bereich der Makroökonomie würdigte, leistete er auch in vielen anderen Bereichen einen Beitrag wie beispielsweise zur Theorie des Wachstums und des technologischen Wandels oder auf den Gebieten optimale Besteuerung und soziale Gerechtigkeit.

Phelps’ wichtigste Erkenntnis in der Makroökonomie war, dass die Beziehung zwischen Inflation und Arbeitslosigkeit durch Erwartungen beeinflusst wird. Da diese Erwartungen endogen sind – sich also mit der Zeit ändern – verändert sich auch die Beziehung zwischen Arbeitslosigkeit und Inflation. Versucht eine Regierung die Arbeitslosenquote auf ein zu niedriges Niveau zu drücken, steigen die Inflation und auch die Inflationserwartungen.

Aus dieser Erkenntnis ergeben sich zwei mögliche Schlussfolgerungen. Manche Entscheidungsträger zogen aus Phelps’ Analyse den Schluss, dass die Arbeitslosenquote auf Dauer nicht gesenkt werden könne, ohne ständig steigende Inflationsraten in Kauf zu nehmen. Daher sollten sich die Finanzinstitutionen einfach auf die Preisstabilität konzentrieren, indem sie sich jene Arbeitslosenquote zum Ziel setzen, an der die Inflation nicht steigt. Dies wird als „inflationsstabile Arbeitslosenquote“ (NAIRU) bezeichnet.

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