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What is Wrong With the Popular Definition of Inflation?

According to Mises,

Inflation, as this term was always used everywhere and especially in this country, means increasing the quantity of money and bank notes in circulation and the quantity of bank deposits subject to check. But people today use the term `inflation’ to refer to the phenomenon that is an inevitable consequence of inflation, that is the tendency of all prices and wage rates to rise. The result of this deplorable confusion is that there is no term left to signify the cause of this rise in prices and wages. There is no longer any word available to signify the phenomenon that has been, up to now, called inflation.[1]

What is today called inflation is the general rise in prices, which is in fact only the outcome of inflation. Consequently, anything that contributes to price rises is now called inflationary and therefore must be guarded against. Thus, a fall in unemployment or a rise in economic activity are all seen as potential inflationary triggers and therefore must be restrained by central bank policies.

Some other triggers such as rises in commodity prices or workers’ wages also regarded as potential threats and therefore must be always under the watchful eye of the central bank policy makers.

If inflation is indeed just a general rise in prices, then why is it regarded as bad news? What kind of damage does it do?

Mainstream economists maintain that general price increases cause speculative buying, which generates waste. Inflation, it is maintained, also erodes the real incomes of pensioners and low-income earners and causes a misallocation of resources.

Despite all these assertions regarding the side effects of what they define as inflation, mainstream economics does not tell us how all these bad side effects are caused.

 

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