Inflation as a deliberate policy

I’ve now been back at my desk for a few days but have not found anything worth writing about. Everything I have written about in the past stands today and no substantive change has been proposed or initiated that would significantly alter the path we are on.

However, whilst traveling, poster Corey brought a book by one Henry Hazlitt to my attention. Originally written in 1946, the free and revised version available on the web dates from 1978

http://jim.com/econ/contents.html

The book is still very much relevant today only more so. It is brief, clear and does not rely on arcane mathematics. If you read nothing else in this book, I suggest you at the very least read the conclusion and excerpt of which is below:

A big hat tip to Corey

“The first edition of this book appeared in 1946. It is now, as I write this, thirty-two years later. How much of the lesson expounded in the previous pages has been learned in this period?

If we are referring to the politicians—to all those responsible for formulating and imposing government policies—practically none of it has been learned. On the contrary, the policies analyzed in the preceding chapters are far more deeply established and widespread, not only in the United States, but in practically every country in the world, than they were when this book first appeared.

We may take, as the outstanding example, inflation. This is not only a policy imposed for its own sake, but an inevitable result of most of the other interventionist policies. It stands today as the universal symbol of government intervention everywhere.

The 1946 edition explained the consequences of inflation, but the inflation then was comparatively mild. True, though federal government expenditures in 1926 had been less than $3 billion and there was a surplus, by fiscal year 1946 expenditures had risen to $55 billion and there was a deficit of $16 billion. Yet in fiscal year 1947, with the war ended, expenditures fell to $35 billion and there was an actual surplus of nearly $4 billion. By fiscal year 1978, however, expenditures had soared to $45’ billion and the deficit to $49 billion.

All this has been accompanied by an enormous increase in the stock of money—from $113 billion of demand deposits plus currency outside of banks in 1947, to $357 billion in August 1978. In other words, the active money supply has been more than tripled in the period.

The effect of this increase in money has been a dramatic increase in prices. The consumer price index in 1946 stood at In September1978 it was 199.3. Prices, in short, more than tripled.[12]

The policy of inflation, as I have said, is partly imposed for its own sake. More than forty years after the publication of John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory, and more than twenty years after that book has been thoroughly discredited by analysis and experience, a great number of our politicians are still unceasingly recommending more deficit spending in order to cure or reduce existing unemployment. An appalling irony is that they are making these recommendations when the federal government has already been running a deficit for forty-one out of the last forty-eight years and when that deficit has been reaching dimensions of $50 billion a year. [13]

An even greater irony is that, not satisfied with following such disastrous policies at home, our officials have been scolding other countries, notably Germany and Japan, for not following these “expansionary” policies themselves. This reminds one of nothing so much as Aesop’s fox, who, when he had lost his tail, urged all his fellow foxes to cut off theirs.

One of the worst results of the retention of the Keynesian myths is that it not only promotes greater and greater inflation, but that it systematically diverts attention from the real causes of our unemployment, such as excessive union wage-rates, minimum wage laws, excessive and prolonged unemployment insurance, and overgenerous relief payments.

But the inflation, though in part often deliberate, is today mainly the consequence of other government economic interventions. It is the consequence, in brief, of the Redistributive State—of all the policies of expropriating money from Peter in order to lavish it on Paul.”

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