El factor Phelps

El 10 de diciembre, Edmund Phelps, mi colega en la Universidad de Columbia, recibirá el Premio Nobel de Economía de 2006. Lo merecía desde hace mucho. Si bien el Comité del Premio Nobel citó sus contribuciones a la macroeconomía, Phelps ha hecho contribuciones en muchas áreas, incluyendo la teoría del crecimiento y el cambio tecnológico, la tributación óptima y la justicia social.

La observación clave que Phelps hizo en el campo de la macroeconomía es que las expectativas afectan la relación entre la inflación y el desempleo y, ya que las expectativas en sí mismas son endógenas –cambian a lo largo del tiempo- también cambia la relación entre desempleo e inflación. Si un gobierno intenta llevar la tasa de desempleo a niveles muy bajos, la inflación va a aumentar y también aumentarán las expectativas inflacionarias.

Este razonamiento tiene dos posibles implicaciones de política. Algunos políticos han concluido a partir del análisis de Phelps que la tasa de desempleo no puede bajarse permanentemente sin que aumenten los niveles inflacionarios. Por lo tanto, las autoridades monetarias simplemente deben enfocarse en la estabilidad de los precios buscando la tasa de desempleo a la que la inflación no aumente, conocida como “tasa de desempleo no aceleradora de la inflación” (NAIRU, por sus siglas en inglés).

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