Thursday, 4 February 2010

inflation or deflation?

John Michael Greer hits on a crucial question that I've given some thought to in the past:
Plenty of countries in the past have tried to cover expenses that overshot income by spinning the presses at the local mint. The result is generally hyperinflation, of the sort made famous in the 1920s by Germany and more recently by Zimbabwe. That I know of, though, nobody has tried the experiment with a national economy in a steep deflationary depression, of the sort that has been taking shape in America and elsewhere since the real estate bubble crashed and burned in 2008. In theory, at least in the short term, it might just work; the inflationary pressures caused by printing money wholesale could conceivably cancel out the deflationary pressures of a collapsing bubble and a contracting economy – at least for a while.

What I see is a monetary system in a vicegrip. There are massively powerful forces of inflation and deflation at work in the system. For the moment these forces balance each other, perhaps mostly do to the sheer momentum of "normalcy." But as the forces grow more powerful and the managers of the economy run out of clever tools, the chances that these forces will remain in balance over the long term appears vanishingly small. The system is balanced on a knife edge, and when one of the forces of inflation or deflation takes the upper hand it will spell disaster for our monetary system.