Business, College of


Date of this Version

May 1991


Published in Journal of Economic Issues 25:2 (June 1991), pp. 373–381. Copyright © 1991 Association for Evolutionary Economics. Used by permission.


When Richard Nixon ran for the presidency in 1968, he declared that inflation was America's number one problem. While opinion polls showed otherwise, an undaunted Nixon set about to reduce inflation and to convince the public of the dangers of rising prices. To help in this effort, the Council of Economic Advisors initiated a study to identify those impacted adversely by inflation. The study, however, was disappointing. According to Herbert Stein, “If anyone was being severely hurt, the available statistics were too crude to reveal it.”

Nixon was not the first, nor was he the last president to warn of the hazards of inflation. Virtually every postwar president since Dwight Eisenhower has warned of the ravages of inflation and perpetuated the, by now, unquestioned belief that inflation exacts a tremendous toll on the standard of living of most, if not all Americans. This belief has in turn allowed policymakers to enact contractionary policies that often impose tremendous human costs on those least able to sustain them in an effort to reduce inflation.

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