The mechanics of inflation
The great government swindle
|Inflation - the mechanics of inflation: the great government swindle and how it works is one of a series of documents about economics and money at abelard.org.|
|moneybookers information||e-gold information||fiat money and inflation|
|the sum of a geometric sequence: or the arithmetic of fractional banking|
– note: this document is non-linear,
the position of text and boxes relative to other text and boxes is not
particularly significant. Start wherever you like and expect to travel
widely about this document as you read. Or start from the beginning and
work your way through, if that gives you joy.
|Money and value||Value of money||Supply and demand||Understanding money - Mechanics of inflation|
|The lenders’ multiplier||Why governments so love inflation||Keep right on borrowing!||How is interest decided?|
|Quantity of money||So what exactly is 'inflation' and how does it operate?||Seignorage|
|The supply of money and how governments manipulate interest rates||Reserve currency||Moral hazard|
|Exchange rates and PPP (purchase power parity)||How to calculate inflation|
|The velocity of money||The roundabout||Perception of value, and inflation||Summary|
It is useful first to distinguish money from value. Money is the pretty coloured paper stuff you keep in your purse, the numbers in your bank account and any other intermediary means of keeping score and used for the purpose exchanging goods.
Wealth on the other hand is anything humans value, such as houses, bananas and land. Most of this document is about money, human responses to money and the trickery applied to money, especially by ‘governments’.
It is important to understand that money and value are two very different animals.
The price of any object is exactly what someone is prepared to pay for it right now.
See also perceived value.
Do not read this box yet if you are easily confused!
It is not entirely correct to treat money as if it has no intrinsic value.
The value of an object is exactly what someone is prepared to pay for it right now. Put another way, the value of an object is established by people wanting that object, the value is not intrinsic to the 'object'. A farmer may value a load of horse manure rather differently than the resident of a studio flat.
Items of money are in fact objects (if you wish to get even deeper in, refer to Why Aristotelean logic does not work). Money objects are indeed valued by humans, thus money does have a real value. For example, the person wishing to sell the horse manure will very like be inclined to take money in exchange for the load, although if offered a brand new shiny motor car or a large sparkly diamond may well like that price even more.
Money is constantly exchanged for other items, including money from other countries and other negotiable instruments. The international exchange rates give an idea of the current value or desirability placed upon various issues of money.
See also PPP.
See also perceived value.
It is quite possible that what is expensive today will be cheap tomorrow. Gold may be valued in the spring, but after a long drought when food is short, you may well find it difficult to buy food with uneatable gold. It is important in understanding the world (and money) to be constantly aware that the world is dynamic, it is ever changing (and you with it!) even as you read this document.
Money is objects which people tend to aspire to; just as is dinner, a coat, a car or a fancy bauble. There is a limited assigned amount of ‘money’ in any society, just as there are a limited number of dinners or cars. In most modern states, the supply of money is in the monopoly control of governments. Governments use this monopoly position as a means of control and manipulation. Governments change the amount of money available according to their own purposes.
Any person who sets up to produce more money, governments label ‘forgers’, then attack those people viciously. However, the real forgers are the governments. They produce more money at will and with that money, they buy goods for the mere price of the printed paper or an edict to their controlled banks. The paper they issue has no intrinsic value beyond the paper upon which it is printed. In the past the paper could be exchanged for gold or other substantial assets—government monetary monopoly has stopped that.
Despite myths to the contrary, there is no good reason why any person should not produce a more reliable money backed by gold or by a basket of commodities. The only factor standing in the way of such honest money is the power of the state, a power that the state is most reluctant to yield.
For further details, refer to private money section in E.M.U. and inflation - a civil liberty issue.
For a society with honest money, read And then there were none by Eric Frank Russell, a science fiction story .
Inflation and rising prices are not the ‘same’.
J M Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, ch. 6.
The reality of inflation is that governments steal money from their citizens with absolutely no intention of repaying that money. They can do this to a great extent because most people cannot add up and because governments can project draconian force. You might note that economics is not taught in schools. Adolph said, “what joy it is for the leaders that the public are stupid”. In Mein Kampf, he lays out plans to ensure that the eastern nations that he intended to colonise/enslave, were kept uneducated. Economics, or the understanding of money, is one of the fundamental skills that are essential for any citizen who is to aspire to freedom. Once the public understands money, the manipulative power of government is greatly reduced.
J M Keynes,
The end of laissez-faire, p. 274.
A central issue of the manner of government power is the monopolisation of overwhelming force. One of the uses of that force is the establishment of a monopoly over the control of money, and that, a money that is mere printed paper with no intrinsic exchange value.
Money is what a psychologist calls a conditioned reinforcer, which means that, if you give people these worthless pieces of paper, other humans are inclined to give you useful things in exchange. Money use depends upon the belief that others will act in like manner at a future date.
Once belief in a form of money ceases, that object (eg dollar bills) ceases to function as money, that is, it ceases to be money!
Inflation is caused by increasing the quantity of money relative to the traded goods within a society. That effect can also be achieved by lowering the quantity of tradable goods. It is not caused by anything else, ever (well, not nearly ever!). Deflation is simply the reverse process. Deflationary policies were pursued by several countries in the wake of the first World War. [J M Keynes, The end of laissez-faire, p.150]
The sums that explain inflation are not difficult to understand, in reality they are very simple: an average ten-year-old child could understand the sums, given a reasonably able teacher. However, for the lack of such teaching, currently it is simple enough for governments and bankers, and for the seriously rich to easily cheat the mass of the population with impunity, by manipulating the fiat or ticket money 
Learning some simple arithmetic is a major road to freedom. However, due to the abominably poor teaching of mathematics that abounds in our society, most of the population is terrified of the simplest of sums. This is despite the reality that those sums are merely the means of conveying rather simple ideas; ideas that may also be expressed in plain English. In view of this widespread fear, I am going to place the simple details and sums in boxes, so that those who are too fearful may skip over those details, at least until they feel safer with the general ideas.
When you deposit £100 in your bank account, the bank, or banks, will effectively lend that money out to approximately 8 to 12 other people dependent upon the deposit ratio, naturally charging each of them interest, often upwards of 20% interest, as in the case of credit card debt, for example. They will of course pay you some minuscule level of interest for the privilege of ‘looking after’ your money. They will also attempt to charge you under any spurious excuse they can dream up, such as giving you a statement of the amount in your account or writing you some form letter.
The amount of goods and services traded within the UK in one year is approximately £800 billion. That figure is known as the GDP (gross domestic product). Of that total over £300 billion is spent, supposedly on our behalf, by the ‘government’. That is roughly 40% of all your money spent in Britain each year is spent by your ever loving government. In order to spend that money government first has to take that money, which eventually means the goods, away from you.
As people do not like almost half of their wages being appropriated by government, government resorts to very many deliberately confusing tactics in order to take your wages from you by stealth.
As a politician once said, “the objective is to pluck the geese in such a manner as to obtain the greatest number of feathers with the least amount of hissing”.
It may not come as a great surprise that, when governments ‘borrow’ from you, they have no intention of repaying the money they have supposedly borrowed. This is much of what inflation is all about. Inflation is a trick to make you think you are being repaid money that you lend the government, when they are in fact stealing the money from you. The objective is, that the longer that you leave your money in savings, the less it will be worth. I shall now outline the mechanism by which this trick is worked. I shall base my outline on a figure of 10% inflation, I could have chosen a higher or lower figure but it is the idea that is the point.
First the government ‘borrows’, usually from its citizens/subjects in an advanced economy, something around 50% of the GNP. That is more than one year’s taxation; say £400 billion in the U.K.
During the course of the year, the government then instructs its wholly owned subsidiary, the central bank (the Bank of England), to print say, an extra £8 billion. Keep in mind that this sum is then multiplied by about 8 or 12 times as it is borrowed and deposited within the banking system. That is, another £80 billion appears from thin air. The process of putting this game into action is left in the hands of the ‘commercial’ banks. These banks are not fully independent businesses, as is often thought or pretended; they are heavily controlled and regulated instruments of the state. For this service, they are handsomely rewarded by being allowed to cream off a percentage of the profits of the scam. The system is a casino and the wheel is fixed.
The result of this activity is 10% more money floating around at the end of a year than there was at the beginning of the year! The result is that, all things being equal (which they are only approximately), the general level of prices throughout the economy rises by about 10%. Which of course amounts to every pound being worth nearly 10% less at the end of the year than it was at the beginning. That is, you can at the end of the year purchase 10% less bread or booze or chrissy presents with your pound than you could at the beginning of the year.
By this process the government gets several advantages.
First, naturally by printing £8 billion , the government gets £8 billion worth of goods and services for absolutely nothing but a few bits of paper! Another accurate word for such a process is ‘forgery’ (for honest money, see the i.o.u. system described in And then there were none).
Second, the debt that they ‘borrowed’ from the people has gone down in value by maybe 10%! In other terms, the £400 billion owed by the government is, after one year, worth a bit more than £360 billion. That is a gain for the government of most of £40 billion!
Third, a great many people mistakenly think that the value of their houses and wages have gone up by a fair old whack, whereas all that has gone up is the price! (Remember, value and price are very different matters). That has the potential to make people think that the government is ‘doing a good job’ while the government is cheating them rotten – quite a trick.
Fourth, because of the rising wages (again, definitely not rising value of wages!), the real level of wages at which tax is paid goes down, so you in fact pay more tax. For example, if you start the year earning £100 a week and tax is paid after the first £30, you will pay tax on £70 (7/10ths of your wages). In one year’s time, assuming that your wages keep up with inflation, you will be earning £110 pounds per week. You will still start paying tax on the money over £30 per week, so now you will be paying tax on £80 (8/11 the of your wages) which is a greater part (proportion of your wages). In fact this means that next year you will pay an extra 4% in tax, yet another bonus for a rapacious government and more tax for you to pay. This process, by the way, is known as ‘bracket creep’.
Little wonder that governments love inflation so very much!
Keeping in mind the effect on government debt of 10% inflation, it becomes clear that the government could ‘borrow’ another £40 billion at the end of the year and end up owing no more in real terms than they did at the beginning of the year. £40 billion is about 1/8th of the total of UK taxation for one year, and that does not of course take into account all those other benefits like taxing people at lower real levels of wages, and the lower benefits paid out by governments.
Now of course this wondrous effect would gradually disappear if government ever did pay off the national debt, or allow it to erode and disappear by inflation.
Therefore in order to keep up the advantages of inflation to government, it is important that government does keep right on ‘borrowing’. For without a ‘debt’, there would be no debt left to erode!
You will constantly be informed that the Bank of England or, until recently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sets the basic rate of interest. This is untrue, the market decides interest, not the bank or chancellor as is pretended.
As with the price of all goods, the banks will get the highest possible rate of interest possible from its ‘customers’. They will also pay the lowest rate possible to those who deposit money in their banks. Over a very long period of reasonably honest money, that rate of interest was in the region of 3%, give or take a bit. That was approximately what those who borrowed money were prepared to pay and what satisfied those who lent money. There was some small difference between these rates, due to the percentage that the banks creamed of for the service of organising the transactions. And remember, the banks lent many times over, thus, in reality. making a considerable profit on the deals.
Now, every banker knows full well, that a poor or uneducated person is much less able, or even likely, to repay than a rich person with assets to impound and a reputation to defend. Further, the banker also knows full well that the poor person usually needs the money far more than the rich person. So the banker tends to take the poor customer for a much greater rate of interest than the rich person. Hence the crazy rates of interest charged on credit cards and the like.
So, why is the basic interest rate not 2 or 3%? Well, because when the government are making the value of money ever less, those lending money demand a premium to compensate for the losses through inflation. Thus the posted interest becomes something like 3% plus the inflation rate! It really is as simple as that.
A more detailed description of the way in which government manipulates the money supply, with its knock-on effects on nominal interest rates [**] can be seen at the supply of money and how governments manipulate interest rates.
** The nominal interest rate is the real interest rate (approximately 3%) plus the amount of ‘interest’ demanded by the market in order to offset the continually devaluing value of the money being engineered by the government.
At any one time there exists a fixed quantity of money just as there exists a fixed quantity of cars or refrigerators. Consider a monopoly refrigerator manufacturer. They may fix the price of refrigerators at what ever level they wish, simply by increasing or decreasing the number of refrigerators manufactured or released in a given time period. Several markets are more or less managed in such a manner: diamonds, oil or the electricity supply can be examples.
Money can likewise be controlled in such a manner. Thus governments tend to rig the current value of money by controlling the supply and by making it very difficult for rival suppliers to set up in business. There is no sound or legitimate reason for governments to control or own the supply of money.
The constant assumption that government has some legitimate place in the supply and control of money is a myth fostered by governments. 
There is no good reason why you should not issue money, assuming that you are prepared to legitimately redeem that money at a pre-arranged rate, your money would in fact be of greater legitimacy than that issued by governments who start off with no such intention. (See And then there were none.)
Consider that in any economy such as the UK the people have access to a particular quantity of desirable goods and services (see Why Aristotelean logic does not work), such as land, tables and people’s time giving them manicures or cooking their dinner. They also have a fixed amount of money to assist in their trading these goods among themselves.
We know from observation that, in general, they trade among themselves at a fairly constant rate.
Then, suddenly and rather secretly, government prints 1% more money. Afterwards, over a period of time, prices will tend to rise by about 10% (see the multiplier box).
The goods won’t go up in value, the money has merely become worth less because there is more of it (see supply and demand).
There is one case in which the printing of extra money has some measly justification: that is that the productivity of the country, and thence the amount of desirable tradable goods, has increased. This does happen with fairly predictable regularity in a modern economy, at a rate of about 2 or 3% a year. Now clearly the producers of the extra goods should be the people who issue any extra money to cover these goods, but the government instead horns in on the act and produces the money itself and duly exchanges that money for the goods produced by others. This trick is called seignorage 
You will meet this trick in another form in reserve currency.
And now for inflation
Not satisfied with seignorage, and thinking it a good wheeze anyway, governments eventually caught on to the advantage of producing even more paper over and above that 'needed'  for trade. Once more, government gets goods for virtually nothing in exchange for the extra money that it prints. This surplus money has all the various advantages for the government delineated elsewhere and a very great deal of disadvantage for the average member of the population. But then, whoever suggested government was your honest friend?
There is another prime manner in which inflation can occur. This is when an economy shrinks, for then there are less goods while the amount of money remains the same. Strangely, a great many commentators confuse a growing economy as inflationary and a contracting economy as deflationary, such is the innumeracy abroad in the land. The confusion seems to be that as an economy expands, so labour becomes in short supply; thus the price of labour increases and this rising price becomes confused with inflation.
Any rising price in one part of the economy will always be matched with falling prices elsewhere in the economy, as long as both the supply of money and the propensity to trade remain stable (see also velocity of money). Inflation, on the other hand, is due almost always to the government printing worthless money in order to cheat you out of your property. Inflation results in a general rise in prices, not a rise in prices for a good that is currently in short supply. Naturally the government does everything it can in order to confuse the two situations, constantly lying and pretending that rising wages or some such is 'causing' inflation. Most are taken in by this, after all government also widely controls the universities and has a cosy relationship with the media and banking combines.
Prices during that time had multiplied by about three times, thus the real inflation figure was around 6 times rather than the then reported 3 times.
The situation was worse in the European economies.
Imagine the situation where a new model of a car is issued, that has better fuel consumption and suspension, while also having more features such as an in-board computer and improved air conditioning. Because technology and work practices have improved since the last model was issued, the new model should cost less to produce than the previous model. However, any decrease in production cost is most often not reflected in a a lower price from the car manufacturer, or is masked by further government taxation.
The supply of money and how governments manipulate interest rates
The government primarily uses three methods to manipulate the supply of money in the economy.
1. The government extracts ‘assets’ (see next paragraph) from the banks.  Now you and I would call it borrowing money from the banks, but governments and banks tend to prefer fancy jargon, which has the added advantage of confusing the great majority of people.
By this borrowing of money from the banks, which really means borrowing it from the customers of the banks, the government achieves the effect of the banks and customers having less money. The banks are left with a piece of paper, which they call an ‘asset’ but is in fact an i.o.u.
As the banks now have less money to lend, the rate of interest is driven up. This is because there is less money for them to lend to their customers, and thus more competition for the money that remains available for borrowing. Remember, shortage drives up prices. Thus the government can drive up the price of borrowing, by borrowing rather large amounts of the available money for itself, money that it is then often inclined to waste on foolish and inefficient pet schemes.
To increase the amount of money floating around, this process is simply reversed. The government buys back the assets/i.o.u.s, so leaving the banks with more money to lend out.
2. Remember that governments have the banks very much under their control. Part of this control is exercised by forcing the banks to deposit part of your money with the government. They call this the reserve ratio. Remember also the effect of the multiplier. By forcing the banks to keep an extra billion pounds on deposit, the effect is to take maybe ten billion pounds out of the system!
The deposit or reserve ratio  is supposed to protect the banks against insolvency, at least that is the propaganda. In a free market, the banks would decide on the reserves they intend to keep. The more the reserves the safer, but maybe the less profitable will be the bank. In a free system, customers would be able to choose whether they wished to deposit their money with a more profitable or a more risky bank. Likewise, the shareholders would be faced with similar decisions. A more risky bank might well pay a higher rate of interest on any money you deposited, so the choice becomes real. However, this is not a free market, this is a government monopoly, so the government sets the reserve ratio for all the banks under its control.
3. Now comes by far the worst element of government manipulation of the money supply; it is no exaggeration to refer to this element as criminal forgery.
The government simply expands the money supply, by printing more money with which it buys goods from the public with no intention whatsoever of repaying the theft thereby enabled. It is important to keep right on remembering that the effect of this extra forged money on the amount of money in circulation is expanded approximately ten times by the time the banks have applied the multiplier.
In both sections 1 and 2 above, there is every expectation that these processes be reversed at some future date, that is, the supply of money as effected by the first two types of manipulation is reversible and likely to be reversed over time. These processes may be expected to wax and wane as with the tides.
The third method is something entirely different. It is deliberately designed, government theft by stealth from the population. There is no intention of reversing the process, just an endless process of systematic theft.
For another twist in the tale, see also reserve currency.
The exchange rate
When a government debauches (inflates) its currency, people of ability who have money make strong attempts to unload as much of that currency as they can. One way of doing that is to sell the local currency for a foreign currency that is being inflated less. This process is one reason that a currency becomes ‘overvalued’, i.e., more people want the safer currency and less want the more unreliable currency. In reality it is not ‘overvalued’ at all for, as you will remember, the value of any item is exactly what a person will pay for it right now!
A currency is only ‘overvalued’ relative to its current PPP. However, many people will be betting it won't stay that way!
Most sensible people expect the new proposed euro to become a soft (i.e. inflationary) currency, so the markets have marked the price of the euro down in order to compensate for that perceived risk. In the meantime, the British currency has been transferred to an ‘independent’ central bank. Alert bodies interpret this to mean that there will probably be less government interference in the money supply and therefore less inflation in Britain than in the past: therefore the value placed upon pounds rises.
Sometimes, large numbers of people outside a country start to trust the stability of another country and also the stability of the money regime of that country; in other words they trust that the country doesn’t tend to inflate, or at least not outrageously. If those people live in a country where the inflation is ‘outrageous’, they start to trade in the currency of the more stable country. When this happens, the external currency being favoured is said to be a reserve currency.
It is not enough for a country to start printing paper and calling it money, it is also necessary that people accept and use the paper as money. In the extreme case, if everybody refused to hold euros or accept them in payment, the euro would not become money, it would just be worthless paper.
A currency is money, if and only if, the people are prepared to accept it as money.
The British currency used to be used widely as a reserve currency and it is just possible that condition is returning. The US dollar is the prime reserve currency at this time. Any currency that is used to hold cash reserves, in preference to your own currency, is acting as a reserve currency. Intelligent people, countries and companies attempt to spread risk by holding several currencies.
There are considerable advantages that accrue to a country that manages to establish itself as a reserve currency. There is also a very great potential danger.
If a country can establish reserve currency status and get its money used in another burg, it has the same effect as an increase in internal production. It is counter inflationary, the same amount of money covering more goods and trading. So the country with the reserve currency can more easily print more money as a seignorage. This exports the potential inflation to the other country because the money in the other country is becoming less popular. The other country's money then steadily covers less and less goods, thus making their money ever less valuable.
The very grave danger is that the reserve currency loses trust, or even that a foreign government bans its use, when it will all quickly come flooding back to the issuing country, thus setting off inflation there. If the amounts are large, the effects will likewise be large. A country with a reserve currency must take the value of its money with great seriousness, if it is to maintain that useful status.
So, what do the banks prefer? In a corrupt world, banks like instability! Bankers like confusion; yours!
In an environment where government plays games with money, no business can plan effectively, even including the local country's client banking system. Thus regularly, banks go effectively bankrupt, and businesses are widely less efficient that would be the case could they plan in a stable and an honest environment.
Further more, where government behaves in a dishonest manner, it gives a very powerful message to the mass of society.
If people cannot trust money and also cannot trust government to provide a stable set of rules for the conduct of the relationships known as business, those people are less likely to engage in the relationships known as ‘business’. This results in lower production and less socially positive interactions. Among other effects, people start to attempt to trade by other, less efficient, means such as barter, in order to avoid the unpredictability and the dishonesty inherent in inflating money and dishonest government.
Remember that the government is at the heart of this monetary manipulation, and the banks are both their agents and their servants. There is a strong incestuous relationship between government and banking, where the government is a monetary monopolist. You will find that old chancellors do not die, they just end up with lucrative sinecures in the banking system.
When it suits the government to have more money sloshing around, almost invariably before an election, the money supply is expanded. After the election is safely over, money is once again tightened and taxes raised, only for the process to be repeated when the next election approaches. Those who believe the lies that government and the banking system purvey, attempt to run their businesses on a basis of rational planning, rather than setting policy according to the election cycle that is really driving government policy. This leads to many a bankruptcy and much confusion. At times, with a government in some difficulty, the manipulations become rather gross, resulting in considerable business disruption. During such a (quite common) disturbance, so many businesses and individuals tend to get into difficulties that the banking system itself comes under pressure, also becoming effectively bankrupt.
Naturally, the government cannot stand the heat of large numbers of people being no longer able to reclaim their money from the banks, so the government simply raises taxes, manipulates the money supply and thus the interest rates, until the banks are once more in profit, and rolls onward to the next manufactured ‘crisis’.
Now, the banking system knows perfectly well that the government will bail them out if difficulties arise. So, they start to lend your money to the projects that promise the greatest returns, that is, to the projects that are most risky. This, of course, much increases the likelihood that the banks will once more get into difficulties, but remember, no worries: the taxpayer will be forced by the government to bail them out. In the trade this process is called moral hazard! 
An effective parasite tends to debilitate the victim but not to kill it, for that would remove the source of sustenance. While many a small business goes to the wall, large businesses with large reserves and accumulated institutional experience can absorb the assets of the damaged businesses at knock-down rates . The next round of inflation will also tend to wipe out the debts of the survivors, also ensuring that obviously large groups of unemployed to not appear to embarrass the politicians whom these companies often tend to fund.
Banks are run for self interest and ego, bankers are constantly making errors of judgement, often on the grand scale. 
GNP or GDP
Short for Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product. These terms mean more or less the same thing. 
A country may be imagined as a business corporation and the money issued as the shares in that corporation. The holders of money may then be thought of as the shareholders of that country. People or corporations seeking to own a slice of that country must acquire the shares of the country.
You want to follow the crookery and confusion further? See corporate corruption, politics and the ‘law’.
Exchange rates do not reflect the purchase prices across different ‘countries’. The pound is currently (2000) very strong, thus you may buy far more abroad with your pounds than was the case a few years back.
PPP is worked out by first comparing the local prices of a basket of goodies across different countries, then normalising to assess a better value for the money across those countries, than the value indicated by current exchange rates. 
Thus, dollars are presently worth far more in America, than they are in England when changed into pounds at the current exchange rate. Hence, the real value of wages to an American is much higher than the real wages of a person in Britain, far higher than the current exchange rate would suggest. Without this conversion, real GDP-per-capita comparisons do not make sense.
These differences between exchange rate and PPP are heavily exploited by intelligent entities.
The advantages of a strong currency
Governments try to con you into imagining that a weak currency has advantages. The idea is ludicrous. Would you rather your wages purchased less goods rather than more every year? Would you rather that those nice foreigners allowed you to stay in their hotels and eat their food at a greater cost to yourself? Of course you wouldn't!
Naturally, you would rather that they give you more for the things that you sell to them, but sadly that ain’'t going to happen. You are either going to have to produce a better product or to sell it cheaper, or even start doing something else! Whichever way you go, selling for a bigger number of pounds or dollars or francs isn’t going to help you much if the money is simply worth less.
No, the only reason a government would suggest that you would want money that is worth less is that it is they that are making it worth less by continually printing more of it!
If you are providing a service, for example manufacturing items to sell into a market where the money is, in your judgement, undervalued relative to your home money, you have various options. You may reduce the price of the items in the other country, whence if you try to change the money into your own currency, you will get less than you might have wished.
However you might also keep the money invested abroad until the foreign money becomes worth more like the amount of pounds that you think you should get for it. You could also purchase your supplies from abroad, thus getting them at a price that seems cheap to you, or even buy a manufacturing unit abroad at an apparently cheap price and hire labour at a price that also looks cheap to you, thus expanding your empire.
Any time you try to take advantages of these difference, you may be sure that various sharks will surround you seeking a cut.
For example, when you change your money from one currency to another, the banks will attempt to get as much out of you as they can. Travel agents are quite as likely to charge you a huge 5% or more. If you are richer or better informed you may well pay 1% or less, ignorance is an exploitable market opportunity.
If you buy a house, sure enough there will be lawyers and others lining up for a cut. There is essentially little difference between buying a bunch of bananas and buying a house. The largest problem being that if the bananas turn out to have gone off, your loss is relatively small; whereas you can lose rather more if your house falls down or it did not belong to the avowed seller. So you pay the lawyers to protect you from the liars. Trouble is, it is hardly unknown for the lawyers to lie and also to take the biggest fee they can manage. In recent times in England, lawyers even formed a cartel in order to set a very high fee which they then all charged and so became unavoidable, for want of competition. Rather like that which most of your high-street vendors attempt at present.
If you buy a house in France, the lawyer is also a government tax agent. You will pay approximately 10% of the purchase price to the lawyer and often, four different levels of government—I kid you not. Believe it or not, the estate agent is also another goverment tax agent. So if you sell, the agent will charge you most of ten percent, of which three-quarters also ends up in the government tax coffers. If you want a mortgage, you guessed it, they will tax you on that as well. There should be signs up:
“Government involved? Beware: shark-infested waters.”
Arbitrage is taking advantage of different prices in different places by buying in the cheap place and selling in the expensive place. For example, you might buy a house in Liverpool and bring it down to London to sell, though you may decide that the transaction costs wipe out your intended profits.
In like manner, taking your ‘over-valued’ pounds and translating them into cheap dollars may not help a great deal if you don't want to fly to America in order to eat cheap American hamburgers, especially after some bureau de change have siphoned off a goodly slice.
Keep also in mind that, should you wish eventually to return your assets to ‘home’ by selling your foreign investment, yes, there they are again, those sharks wanting yet another bite out of your pretty arse.
RPI (retail price index) and CPI (consumer price index)
Are these and other similar indices inflation?
Most definitely not.
So why do they try to make you think these indices are inflation?
If I were to set out to design an index that deliberately covered up and obscured the real situation with inflation, I would design the U.K. RPI. If I were even more dishonest, I would attempt to confuse it in the minds of the public with inflation, by constantly referring to it as price inflation or simply inflation.
The CPI is an extremely poor indicator of inflation. Such indices are constructed by checking periodically the prices of goods purchased by the average household, and then comparing changes on a regular basis. This is exactly what is done with the UK CPI. However, the index carefully leaves out house prices, wages and stock market prices; that is, it leaves out the very items most effected by inflation.
If you do not want your money eroded and therefore stolen by government, you do not hold money, you hold assets. That is, you buy shares in companies, houses, fine art, in fact anything rather than hold inflating money. This process of course, pushes up asset prices to the extent that, in the UK, houses are now priced at approximately twice what they were priced at in 1950, in real terms. That is, even when prices are adjusted for inflation, this is a direct effect of an inflationary government policy. See also gold market.
The goods that do make up the basket of items that are used to calculate the CPI are subject to constant heavy downward pressure, and they have been since the industrial revolution. This downward pressure continues to increase. This pressure is due to two prime factors:
1] industrial production is getting ever more efficient and
2] competition is ever widening. In particular, a great deal is now manufactured using third-world, comparatively cheap, labour.
RPI figures can also be depressed further when the exchange rate for a currency is over-valued relative to the PPP. At the time of writing (September 2000), this is a factor in the UK RPI figures. See also reserve currency.
How I calculate inflation for my own decisions
As I have no trust at all in these UK indices as measurements, I use my own calculation of inflation based upon the real causes of inflation; and a damned sight simpler it is than the government flummery.
It goes like this.
Take the percentage figure for monetary expansion
for the last year (known as M4 in the UK), and subtract from it the increase
in GDP production. At this moment, the reported  figures are:
Inflation is deliberately and systematically operated by stealth and dishonesty. Its prime purpose, amongst many other dishonourable aims, is to steal the savings of the uneducated and the old. When new money is printed and pumped into the economy, the government tend not to announce that they are herby reducing the value of all wages and old age pensions by 3.7%, so the powerless and the innumerate do not immediately realise that the wages they are asking should immediately rise by 3.7% just to keep their incomes standing still. Nor does the small business person running the corner shop catch on straight away that when they go to buy replacement stock the prices will have risen by 3.7%, so they unknowingly sell the goods cheaply at the old price.
Thus lags are built into the system, only over a period of time do the prices and wages start to rise to meet all that extra money the government has printed. These lags can easily be one or two years, by which time the government is usually busy printing even more worthless paper with which it immediately starts buying your labour and your property.
This printing process is therefore normally accelerated a year or so before an election,  in order to make you feel richer, and thus encourage you to vote the current lot back into power. Then as soon as the election is safely out of the way, the money supply is choked off, driving up interest rates on the goods you brought just prior to the election.
Thus your mortgage goes up and there is talk of over-heating and prudence. All these activities are deliberate government actions, they do not happen by chance and they are not beyond government control. You are merely being lied to and manipulated both deliberately and systematically. This is why I regard inflation as a criminal act.
Some economists, for instance James Tobin of Yale University (1972), say that a small amount of inflation, say 2.5 to 3 percent, allows greater job market flexibility. Essentially this is because Joe Six-pack doesn’t realise his wage packet is decreasing if the numbers stay the same. Such slow inflation then, has the potential to ease downward wage flexibility where particular skills are becoming less marketable. Without flexibility, it is argued that there would be more worker unrest and more unemployment.
This view, concerning helpful levels of inflation, I accept as an interim measure until populations are better educated.
Another element of inflation is that it is used in order to let countries and companies off the results of failed investment or borrowing decisions. This is done by using inflation as a tax on the mass of workers and savers. It could be argued that this avoids depressions such as those that have hit world markets at regular 50-60 year intervals under a more rigid ‘morality’ (see also the paper by Greenspan and Parks. )
It is possible to argue that this process is ‘a good thing’, but I have yet to see it thus argued, even though it is widely practised. As an elitist, it is possible to suggest that removing resources from the mass in order to enable their masters to continue to function, thus providing jobs and continuity, is a necessary process.
I would prefer to remove such dishonesty and manipulation from the system by concerted education.
There is one other rare, but possible, source of inflation. If people start participating in an accelerated number of money transactions, then the money will start to move around more quickly. This will have the same effect as if there were more money in the economy because each bit of money will be used more often!
The good news is that empiric (real world experience) data shows that this does not often happen, so it is not something to worry about over-much. A cause for increased velocity could be a panic, where for example the population ceases to trust the local currency and so tries to unload it as fast as they can. In the history of the German hyper-inflation  of the early 1930s, there are stories of people rushing out with their money in suitcases and by barrow the moment they were paid, in order to spend it before it became worth ever less.
Such a situation can set up a positive feedback loop. The greater the panic, then the more people trying to get rid of money, the greater still becomes the panic, hence the greater the money velocity.
In order to get the victim hooked, governments and their banking side-kicks have another con game in reserve. In time, if a government inflates to a level at which the populace no longer trusts them and so start to look elsewhere than government money in order to protect their assets. The government now has a problem, for they cannot then so easily steal the assets from citizens. At this point, the government starts a new policy: it starts promoting the French franc fort or starts a new currency such as the new franc. This policy is then carried on for a few years until people once more trust the currency. At which point, guess what, yes, they start to inflate again.
Within the limits that government can get away with inflating a currency, the trick goes as follows:
Stage 1: Start to inflate; this is known as a loose or easy monetary ‘policy’. It is invariably promoted as good for industry or some such lie. During this stage, it takes a while for most people to catch on; they are encouraged to borrow as heavily as possible and this is supposed to promote ‘growth’ and spending.
Stage 2: As the markets start to adjust and the price of assets rise, people notice that they can borrow cheaply to buy a house or some other property. People also notice that, as the price of the houses keeps rising, the interest payments are eaten up by increasing prices (people are further encouraged to think this price rise is a rise in value!).
Stage 3:Eventually those lending the money start to catch on to the reality that they are receiving no real interest and that in fact their money will no longer buy anything like as much as it would a year or two previously, e.g. a house! So they start demanding considerably higher interest on their money. Suddenly, the purchaser of the house finds their wages will no longer pay the mortgage interest. They struggle and struggle and scrimp and save to pay the interest, but eventually they can just no longer keep up.
Stage 4: One fine day, the bank manager calls them in, takes out the onion, and tells them with a sad smirk he will now be ‘forced’ to repossess the house to repay their loan. Of course, many many people are now in this position, and very few can any longer afford to buy houses, so the house prices now slip ever downward. Of course, the ‘owner’ of the house has, like as not, already paid a very large proportion of the original house price in ‘interest’. But now the bank takes the house to pay off the original debt. Those who still have ready money, like those who lent the money to the banks in the first place, then buy the house at a nice low price. When a large number of these transfers have been satisfactorily completed, once again, money becomes ‘easy’ again and the roundabout starts upon the next circuit.
While unloading these houses, the banks also tend to jump the price of the property a bit and lend to their ‘friends’,  at ‘advantageous’ rates. These people then sit in the property while the prices rise and rise. Then, as they see the signs of the next squeeze, they sell the house or whatever for a very tidy profit and go and live in the sun on some of the proceeds, while awaiting the next lot to go bust so they can buy the property back again at a bargain basement price.
Nothing on earth has value of its ‘own’ ‘merit’. ‘Objects’ have value in the minds and judgement of others. The tree may value shade, the owl may value a vole and the human may value beads, a bridge or a machine gun.
GNP is an attempt to measure what humans in a given society value this year and the actions that they take to produce those items valued: a set of beads or cut diamonds, a haircut or an hour with a friendly lady, a car or a dome, or even Scotland.
The United Kingdom currently suffers under a monopoly currency. If tomorrow morn, every person in these isles took a great distaste to Scotland and headed south to England, Scotland would cease to exist as an item of value and trade. Assuming that the current residents of Scotland carried their money with them on their flight, the amount of money would remain unchanged but the amount of desired tradable goods would shrink handsomely.
This lowering of desired goods would result in considerable inflation, assuming no interference in the money supply by government.
Consider instead, a single Scotsman of some energy and productivity who is engaged in distilling whisky on the Spey. He decides to travel to London to seek greater fortune and ends up providing a puppet show for tourists. The money again remains the same, the whisky produced is less, but the tourists enjoy the show. The price of whisky rises a little and less of it is quaffed. A puppet show appears from a few rags and tatters and is valued by customers. Given that the money saved on the lowered consumption of whisky ends up spent on entrance fees to the puppet show, there is no inflation; just a transfer of what is valued.
Assume the idiots who insist that Europe now has a single currency are able to enforce their foolish project, and given that…
the Éire  economy and environment rapidly become more productive and interesting to many Europeans. So they are motivated to move from other parts of Europe. This sends up the prices of land and housing in Éire. It lowers the prices of housing or whatever from wherever the incomers come. Again this is not inflation, it is rising prices in one area, offset by falling prices (due to lowered desirability) elsewhere.
The removing of an item from the list of desired
objects is inflationary.
The current widespread talk of inflation in the Éireann economy is a misunderstanding of inflation. In a single currency area, it makes no serious sense to speak of differing rates of inflation in different areas.
In reality, the very high growth of productivity in Éire must tend to drive European inflation downward and therefore with it, to a small degree, the inflation caused in Éire (and the rest of Europe) by the profligate printing of money by the Euro-bank.
Keynes was one of the great mathematicians and thinkers of the 20th century. Much that is now called Keynesianism or neo-Keynesianism would meet with Keynes’ disapproval, for Keynes was an enemy of inflation because he understood inflation for what it is: dishonesty and the debauchery of money.
|I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.|
|John Maynard Keynes, Letter to Duncan Grant, 15 December 1917|
|However, Keynes was also a pragmatist, an elitist and a humanist.|
|If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory) there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but as there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.|
|John Maynard Keynes, General Theory, bk. 3|
|Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself it is in many ways extremely objectionable.|
|John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-faire, p.294|
|Rather akin to Churchill's statement that|
|Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.|
|Hansard 11 Nov. 1947, col. 206.|
|Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion - how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.|
|John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-faire|
Are rising prices the ‘same’ as inflation?
No, they most definitely are not. This is a widespread error commonly made, and this misunderstanding is enthusiastically exploited by venal politicians and by others. Society is a cacophony of vested interests all calling for and attempting to grab more, more and ever more. It very much suits these vested interests to mislead others concerning the nature of inflation; for common ignorance of the nature of inflation opens considerable opportunities for profit and exploitation.
With stable money, every wage rise for one vested interest results in a wage drop for others in society.
Inflation is not caused by pressure for wage increases, it is not caused by rising oil prices, it is not caused by consumer demand, it is not caused by attempts by suppliers to raise their prices--it is always and everywhere related to governments printing money.
Price increases are not inflation, every price rise in one part of the economy results in a price drop some other place. Prices of particular goods rise because they become more popular, desirable or fashionable. Prices rise because of shortages in the market place. Prices fall for the reverse reasons.
Real rising prices such as those driven by oil shortages can, in the context of a fixed income, drive down your standard of living as surely as inflation can drive down the value of your fixed income. But to remain clear-headed and to understand economics, it is essential to separate these processes in your thinking.
Inflation is when all (or average) prices rise at the ‘same’ time. This happens when the quantity of money issued by the government is increased, or alternately when the amount of goods produced and traded falls. In other words recession,  is inflationary. Modern governments have a great propensity to fiddle with the quantity of money in the economy, in the main in order to forward their own nefarious ambitions. Governments do not, on the whole, manipulate money because they are your bosom pals.
|Related further reading|
|inflation - the mechanics of inflation: the great government swindle and how it works||Transferring value (money) using the internet|
|GDP and other quality of life measurements||e-gold: a developing example of an independent monetary system|
|EMU (European Monetary Union) and inflation|
|Kevin Danaher (editor)||Fifty years is enough: The case against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund||1994, 0896084957, pbk, $16 [amazon.com]|
Hurst and Blackett Ltd.: this translation of Mein Kampf was first published on 21 March, 1939.
|John Maynard Keynes||The Economic Consequences of the Peace||
First published 1919
|John Maynard Keynes||The End of laissez-faire
Essays in Persuasion, the Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes
First published 1926
|John Maynard Keynes||
(The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Vol.7: the ‘General Theory’ of Employment, Interest and Money)
First published 1936
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© abelard, 2000, 11 September
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