“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” once remarked economist and Nobel Prize recipient Milton Friedman. He likely meant that inflation is the more rapid increase in the supply of money relative to the output of goods and services which money is traded for.
As more and more money is issued relative to the output of goods and services in an economy, the money’s watered down and loses value. By this account, price inflation is not in itself rising prices. Rather, it’s the loss of purchasing power resulting from an inflating money supply.
Indeed, Friedman offered a shrewd insight. However, he also accompanied it with an opportunist mindset. Friedman saw promise in the phenomenon of monetary inflation. Moreover, he saw it as a means to improve human productivity and economic growth.
You see, a stable money supply was not good enough for Friedman. He advocated for moderate levels of monetary growth, and inflation, to perpetually stimulate the economy. By hardwiring consumers with the expectation of higher prices, policy makers could compel a relentless consumer demand.
This desire to harness and control the inflation phenomenon has infected practically every government economist’s brain since the early 1970s. Over the decades they’ve somehow come to a consensus that 2 percent price inflation is the idyllic rate for provoking economic nirvana. The Fed even tinkers with its federal funds rate for the purpose of targeting this magic 2 percent rate of price inflation.
On Wednesday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its October Consumer Price Index (CPI) report. According to the government number crunchers, consumer prices are increasing at an annual rate of 2 percent. Of course, anyone who lives and works in the real world knows prices are rising much faster.
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