Will Inflation Stay High for Decades? One Influential Economist Says Yes

Wall Street Journal, 3.9.22 – When the global economy tanked in March 2020, the rate of inflation looked like it was heading to zero. That made it a surprising moment for former U.K. central banker Charles Goodhart to predict that inflation would hit between 5% and 10% in 2021—and stay high.

Mr. Goodhart reasoned that a seismic shift was under way in the world economy, one that fiscal stimulus and the post-pandemic recovery would only hasten. A long glut of inexpensive labor that had kept prices and wages down for decades, he said, was giving way to an era of worker shortages, and hence higher prices.

“The coronavirus pandemic will mark the dividing line between the deflationary forces of the last 30 to 40 years and the resurgent inflation of the next two decades,” said the 85-year-old economist in an interview. He predicted that inflation in advanced economies will settle at 3% to 4% around the end of 2022 and remain at that level for decades, compared with about 1.5% in the decade before the pandemic.

Mr. Goodhart’s theory about how shifting demographics are squeezing the labor force and pushing up prices has drawn the attention of central bankers in the U.S., Europe and China—and has kicked off plenty of debate about whether he is right. Major central banks including the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have expressed alarm about inflation’s surge and are laying plans to try to squelch it.

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