Ludwig von Mises: America has Too Much Common Sense for Hyperinflation

zzinflation

A month or so ago, inflation as the result of quantitative easing was all the rage. More recently, the Powers that Be claimed that jobs data means inflation won’t happen after all.

As someone perched on the hawkish side of the fence, I read about historical cases of inflation whenever I come across them. The excerpt below is from a chapter aptly entitled “Inflation and You,” written by Ludwig von Mises in July 1942:

The most fateful results of inflation derive from the fact that the rise of prices and wages which it causes occurs at different times and in a different measure for various kinds of commodities and labor. Some classes of prices and wages rise more quickly and rise higher than others. Not merely inflation itself, but its unevenness, works havoc.

While inflation is under way, some people enjoy the benefit of higher prices for the goods or services they sell, while the prices for goods and services they buy have not yet risen or have not risen to the same extent. These people profit from their fortunate position. Inflation seems to them “good business,” a “boom.” But their gains are always derived from the losses of other sections of the population. The losers are those in the unhappy situation of selling services or commodities whose prices have not yet risen to the same degree as have prices of the things they buy for daily consumption.

These victims, by and large, are the same kind of people–roughly, the middle classes–who are injured as creditors through the depreciation of their bank savings, insurance policies, pensions, etc. The salaries of teachers and ministers, the fees of doctors, go up only slowly as compared to the tempo with which prices of food, rent, clothing, and so on, go up. There is always a considerable time lag between the increase in the money income of the white-collar workers and professional people and the increase in costs of food, clothing, and other necessities.

His take on why hyperinflation couldn’t happen in the States:

…the great inflation and the Nazi scourge both derived from the mentalities and the doctrines that long dominated German public opinion. The State, which the German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle had already proclaimed as god, was supposed to be able to achieve anything. The omnipotent State was credited with the magic power of unlimited spending without any burden on the citizenry. Money, said the German “monetary cranks,” is a creature of the State; there is no harm in issuing infinite quantities of paper currency.

Fortunately, such superstitions are strange to the healthy common sense of America.

If only von Mises were alive today…

  • I just came across your blog. Anyone that quotes von Mises has attracted my interest.

    If he were only alive today, indeed.