Hooray for Deflation

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Writes Guido Hulsmann in the preface to his Mises Institute monograph Deflation and Liberty (pdf):

In the present crisis, the citizens of the United States have to make an important choice. They can support a policy designed to perpetuate our current fiat money system and the sorry state of banking and of financial markets that it logically entails. Or they can support a policy designed to reintroduce a free market in money and finance. This latter policy requires the government to keep its hands off. It should not produce money, nor should it appoint a special agency to produce money. It should not force the citizens to use fiat money by imposing legal tender laws. It should not regulate banking and should not regulate the financial markets.

It should not try to fix the interest rate, the prices of financial titles, or commodity prices. Clearly, these measures are radical by present-day standards, and they are not likely to find sufficient support. But they lack support out of ignorance and fear.

We are told by virtually all the experts on money and finance—the central bankers and most university professors—that the crisis hits us despite the best efforts of the Fed; that money, banking, and financial markets are not meant to be free, because they end up in disarray despite the massive presence of the government as a financial agent, as a regulator, and as money producer; that our monetary system provides us with great benefits that we would be foolish not to preserve. Those same experts therefore urge us to give the government an even greater presence in the financial markets, to increase its regulatory powers, and to encourage even more money production to be used for bailouts.However, all of these contentions are wrong, as economists have demonstrated again and again since the times of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. A paper money system is not beneficial from an overall point of view. It does not create real resources on which our welfare depends. It merely distributes the existing resources in a different manner; some people gain, others loose. It is a system that makes banks and financial markets vulnerable, because it induces them to economize on the essential safety valves of business: cash and equity. Why hold any substantial cash balances if the central bank stands ready to lend you any amount that might be needed, at a moment’s notice?

Why use your own money if you can finance your investments with cheap credit from the printing press? To raise these questions is to answer them. The crisis did not hit us despite the presence of our monetary and financial authorities. It hit us becauseof them.

Then there is the fear factor. If we follow a hands-off policy, the majority of experts tell us, the banking industry, the financial markets, and much of the rest of the economy will be wiped away in a bottomless deflationary spiral.

The present essay argues that this is a half-truth. It is true that without further government intervention there would be a deflationary spiral. It is not true that this spiral would be bottomless and wipe out the economy. It would not be a mortal threat to the lives and the welfare of the general population. It destroys essentially those companies and industries that live a parasitical existence at the expense of the rest of the economy, and which owe their existence to our present fiat money system. Even in the short run, therefore, deflation reduces our real incomes only within rather narrow limits. And it will clear the ground for very substantial growth rates in the medium and long run.

We should not be afraid of deflation. We should love it as much as our liberty.

9:29 am on October 17, 2008

Hooray for Deflation

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Jeff Tucker pointed out that gas prices were falling about a month ago and they’ve fallen almost a dollar since then. I just paid $2.12 for premium this weekend, and see that the national average is about where it was 3 years ago. As Doug French notes: this is “good news for those of us who buy things.”

8:32 am on November 17, 2008