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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: September 2020

4 - The Inexplicable in Pursuit of the Uncontrollable


Monetarism was at the core of the ideological and policy wars of the 1980s, and of the strategy of the Conservative government headed by Margaret Thatcher. The UK had the highest rate of inflation in the industrialized world. By the 1970s, inflation was tearing the British social fabric apart: especially in its interactions with a government-imposed prices and wages policy. The British policy-making community could not agree whether money should be an overall objective of policy, or simply a target for an indicator that might be a temporary expression of how far the objective was being met, or an instrument for the conduct of policy in pursuit of the target. The Bank was initially quite sceptical about monetary targeting and hostile to monetarism. It believed that proposals for monetary base control ignored the structure of the British banking system, the knowledge of whose complexities and intricacies formed the core of the Bank of England’s professional competence. The keystone of the UK government’s approach was to target a range for £M3 growth as part of a Medium Term Financial Strategy. Meanwhile the Bank felt that it was shut out of policy formulation.