Inflation, Inequality and Social Conflict
This paper presents a political economy model of inflation as a result of social conflict. Agents are heterogeneous in terms of income. Agents’ income levels determine their ability to hedge against the effects of inflation. The interaction of heterogeneous cash holdings and preferences over fiscal policy leads to conflict over how to finance government expenditure. The model makes a number of predictions concerning which environments are conducive to the emergence of inflation. Inflation will tend to be higher in countries with higher inequality and with greater pro-rich bias in the political system. Conversely, the use of income tax will be higher in countries with lower inequality and less pro-rich bias. The model also predicts that although inequality and political bias will have an impact on the composition of revenue, it will have no effect on the overall level of government spending (assuming that spending is on public goods only). These results are largely confirmed by the empirical portion of the paper. The paper’s novel features are its simplifications at the household level which allow for richer treatment of the income distribution and political process than in the related literature. The paper also gives unequivocal comparative statics results under relatively undemanding assumptions.
November 2004 Paper Number CEPDP0657
This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's programme.