Friday, February 4, 2011

Why is imminent hyperinflation like the ever-sharpening crisis of capitalism?

This is based on a comment I made here.

There are folk out there who think the loss of value, since the Fed was founded, by rectangular bits of paper with the faces of Presidents on them is one of the great evils of our time. (A few months ago I listened to a young Austrian school economist describe the Fed as 'the most evil institution in the world' and he wasn't kidding – he also thought you could win economic arguments by playing games with definitions, a particularly irritating habit from a certain sort of Austrian.) My problem is that I look at those graphs of the loss of value of said rectangular bits of paper from 1913 to now and think how much life expectancy and income has gone up from 1913 to now and fail to get all outraged.

Particularly given the most reckless acts of the Fed have been to drive the value of those rectangular bits of paper sharply up and consequently economic activity sharply down.

But if you can only see the evil of inflation, and so the Fed as evil, then it has to be really evil and so be about to really drive the value of those rectangular bits of paper down. Or something.

It is not something you see in mainstream commentary much, but it is certainly not hard to find the possibility of hyperinflation being raised as a real threat. Including from an increasingly prominent member of Congress. Which shades into concern about inflationary outbreak being likely.

There is not much point getting such folk to look at the history of actual hyperinflations, and how they are associated with weak/deeply stressed regimes, because they seem to have an Apocalypse Looming mindset that is a tendency of deductive systems of analysis which think they have the secrets of history all worked out and get very frustrated when events fail to cooperate. So imminent hyperinflation becomes, to this mindset, the equivalent of Ever Sharpening Crisis of Capitalism to Marxism. The "proof" always imminent, but never quite arriving, that they were right all along.

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