Monday, February 20, 2017

Documenting the origin of the term 'stagflation'

If you really, really, really want to know, this will be interesting.

I got a little nervous when both Glasner and Krugman said the origin of the word "stagflation" was the mid-1970s -- after I said the mid-1960s and my only backup was Wikipedia.

Seems like I should be able to find a document that offers proof of some kind -- a newspaper clipping or magazine article from 1965 quoting Iain Macleod, or something like that.


Looking for evidence, as opposed to cut-and-pastings of the sentence "The coinage of the word stagflation is attributed to him."

Here is something: from Project Gutenberg, the World Heritage Encyclopedia article on Iain Norman Macleod. Interestingly, the article includes the quote of his first use of the word "stagflation", from 1965:

We now have the worst of both worlds—not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of 'stagflation' situation. And history, in modern terms, is indeed being made.

and the quote is footnoted.

Oddly, the footnote link is broken.


At the Mises Wiki, an article on Stagflation. The first line is a good definition of stagflation:

Stagflation is an inflationary period accompanied by rising unemployment and lack of growth in consumer demand and business activity.

The second line attributes the term "stagflation" to Iain Macleod:

The term stagflation is attributed to British politician Iain Macleod, who coined the phrase in his speech to Parliament in 1965.

Both lines are footnoted.

The attribution footnote reads:

Edward Nelson and Kalin Nikolov. "Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK", Bank of England Working Paper #155, 2002; Introduction, page 9. (Note: Nelson and Nikolov also point out that the term 'stagflation' has sometimes been erroneously attributed to Paul Samuelson.) Referenced 2011-04-25.

The "Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK" link takes you to "Page Not Found" at the Bank of England.

The Bank of England link takes you to the Bank of England page at the Mises Wiki.

You should be laughing by now.

I went fishing for a PDF named "Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK" and did not come up empty.

Found a couple different PDFs containing one-page blurbs for the article at the Bank of England. No thanks.

Found the PDF at CiteSeerX. But that was yesterday, in a Google search for the quoted title. Captured the link. Tried it today, and CiteSeerX doesn't know anything.

But I went to Google again and searched for "Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK" in quotes, and the CiteSeerX link came up first on the list. And the link works.

I don't know if it'll work for you.

The PDF is 43 pages long. Written by Edward Nelson and Kalin Nikolov. The paper is © Bank of England 2002, and ISSN 1368-5562.

I thought is was "ISBN" but "ISSN" appears legit.

The Mises Wiki footnote refers to page 9. In the PDF, that's the Introduction. The Intro opens with this statement:

On 17 November 1965, Iain Macleod, the spokesman on economic issues for the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, spoke in the House of Commons on the state of the UK economy

That opening is followed by the same "worst of both worlds" quote I showed above.

Interestingly, following that quote in the PDF there is a reference:

(17 November 1965, page 1,165).

The reference is footnoted. Oddly, the link works. The footnote says

Many of the statements quoted in this paper are those by UK policy-makers in Parliament, as given in the House of Commons’ Official Report (also known as Hansard). These quotations are indicated by the date of the speech and the page from the Hansard volume from which the quotation is taken.

So there is hope. Maybe I can find the Hansard volume that documents the quote.

Good grief.

After the Macleod quote, the text says

With these words, Macleod coined the term ‘stagflation’.

That sentence is footnoted. The footnote says

Macleod used the term again in a speech to Parliament on 7 July 1970 and confirmed that he had invented the word. From then on, the term was common parlance in UK economic policy debate, being used, for example, in an article in The Economist of 15 August 1970. Some sources (eg Hall and Taylor (1997)) attribute the term to Paul Samuelson (1975). But the earliest occasion on which we have found Samuelson used the word was in a Newsweek column of 19 March 1973, entitled ‘What’s Wrong?’, reprinted in Samuelson (1973, pages 178–80).

Now I'm happy. It's not only that the word is attributed to Iain Macleod; he also says he invented it.

Well that was easy, huh?


I made a one-page PDF of the page (page 9) from the "Monetary policy and stagflation in the UK" PDF. Download it and have a look if you want.


Oh wow, I found it! Actual documentation:

Now I'm happy.


Michael Leddy said...

The OED can sometimes make this kind of hunt easy. The first citation for stagflation is “1965 I. Macleod Hansard Commons 17 Nov. 1165/1,” with the first two sentences of the passage you quoted from the encyclopedia article.

I’m not trying to discount your detective work — just suggesting an easier way to start.

The Arthurian said...

Oh, and I was so pleased with myself!
It never occurred to me to use a dictionary. I have no excuse. Thanks Michael.