Hyperinflation – Are We There Yet?

Hyperinflation, it just kind of rolls off your tongue. The doom and gloomers make it sound like the world is going to end tomorrow. The government has printed over $1 trillion dollars in the last six months, but the CPI went down last month. How can prices go down if there is more money chasing the goods that everyone wants to sell?

Your amateur economist will try to explain. There is not more money chasing the do dads that Joe retailer is trying to sell. There is more money 7.62×39 ammo for sale in the system, but the banks are holding it, because they have a bunch of junk real estate backed securities that are sinking in value faster than the Titanic.

The government always inflates the money supply. It is how they try to juice the economy in good times and bad to increase employment. Vic the voter likes the good times, and there is nothing that keeps incumbents being re-elected like a good time economy. If you juice the economy with a little inflation, business is happy because they sell everything they make and can pay off their loans to build bigger factories. Joe six-pack gets a raise that barely keeps up with inflation, but what the heck, he got a raise. The politicians get re-elected, everybody wins. Heck, if you juice it and hold down interest rates, you can promise the American Dream of home ownership to people that cannot qualify for a loan.

We live with “inflation” everyday. The dollar has lost about 98% of its value in the last 100 years. Inflation averages over 1% per year.

Hyperinflation is a different animal. Hyperinflation is when you and others around you lose faith in the continuing value of the states money. When people get scared. This is the danger of a currency that is not backed by some store of value. Inflation does not cause hyperinflation; it just has to be present.

Think of inflation as a campfire. It is a good thing; we can cook over it, and keep warm. Then some dummy comes along and puts too much wood on the fire. Before you know it, we have an honest to God Aggie Bonfire going. It takes on a life of its own, growing bigger, flames licking anything that is flammable. It gets so hot that the green grass starts to burn, everybody scatters trying to get out of the way before being consumed by the destruction.

So we have our nice little inflation campfire and everyone is happy. Somebody adds a little fuel, a stimulus package, an omnibus spending bill, and it gets a little bigger. However, the funny thing is nobody worries about it; it is just a little fire. Like a frog in boiling water, it does not feel that warm. It is dark outside and feels cozy. Then we notice an ember has spread a small fire to the brush on the side of the fire. We are alarmed, but everything is ok, and it feels so cozy. Then we notice a glow through the trees.

What is it? It could not be fire over there, could it? We get concerned, the tree’s are dry, the underbrush cracks when you walk on it. We realize that this whole area could turn into an inferno. “Honey, pick things up and let’s get out of here”. The crackling gets louder, and I can feel the heat of the glow now on the side of my face. “Honey, leave it, let’s go now.” But where can you go? By now, the fire is all around us, the path is not safe. You wonder if you can get to the car. You feel trapped!

Inflation sneaks up on us. Milk that cost $1 a gallon gradually creeps up in price over the years, until it costs $4 a gallon. It happened so slowly no one noticed, or at least became alarmed. Then we read about a shortage of milk, it seems the milk is worth more in China. The milk that is available now costs $6 a gallon. Wait a minute, I did not get a raise, and other stuff costs more too. You mention it to your wife and decide to buy a few extra cans of soup and vegetables, just to put in the pantry. Plus, they will probably cost more next year anyway. You might as well buy them now, before they go up. You pat yourself on the back, when you notice a month later that a can of corn has gone up twenty cents! Honey, why not take some money out of savings and buy more food, we can store it in the basement.

This is where HYPERINFLATION takes over; it is the VELOCITY of money. Spend it now; buy something before it goes up in price. Food, guns, ammo, gold, silver, houses (yes even houses); cars (yes even cars) all go up in price because of a herd mentality. “Buy it now, it will cost more tomorrow” they yell. People lose faith in the value of money. They want to trade it for something they need, or think they will need.

The U.S. dollar was always backed by gold or silver, until 1971 when President Richard Nixon removed the gold backing of our currency. When the currency is not backed by some “store of value”, then we seek to place a value on it with something that holds value to us. Therefore, we buy food, guns, ammo, gold, and silver as a safe store of value.

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