In 1971 the USA decoupled the dollar from gold. From that day onwards inflation rose rapidly in many parts of the world. Whilst it is perfectly possible to enjoy monetary discipline without a gold standard, the Central Banks and governments of many major countries could not resist the temptation to allow more credit and money to circulate, which led to more inflation.
This tendency was particularly rife at times in the UK, especially in the 1970s. Inflation in the UK since 1971 has averaged a very rapid 6.2%. You would need £12 now to provide the same value as £1 in 1971. The value of money has fallen by a massive 92%.
The rate of fall in our money was brought down from the very high levels of the 1970s, but has remained quite high by international standards. In the last two years inflation has averaged 4.2%, taking the value of our money down by another 8%.
There is little evidence to support the idea that a higher rate of inflation produces more growth. Indeed, the recent inflation has eroded real incomes and made it more difficult to generate a private sector led recovery. When inflation was out of control in the 1970s, the UK economy performed especially badly, with a recession and a trip to the IMF to borrow to keep the country afloat.
Mr Carney the new Governor of the Bank of England may well wish to produce a monetary policy which fosters more growth. He needs to also be aware of the tendency of the UK to too much inflation. I suspect he will wisely decide to keep the inflation target. He should also ask why it has been missed so much in recent years, and ask whether better control of inflation might not be part of the answer to instilling confidence and encouraging more growth.
Dropping the inflation target gives him no freedom he does not enjoy anyway, given the way the Bank has behaved in recent years. It would, however, worry some people in the markets in a way which would be unhelpful. Making it more flexible may be more honest than the present regime has been over the target, but implying it is not being taken seriously at all would also be an unwise move.