Monday, September 25, 2006

And you think the Fed has it tough?

Post WW I Germany often is the example of hyperinflation used in Money and Banking texts, but for a more timely example you may want to consider Zimbabwe.

BBC NEWS | Business | Zimbabwe's inflation tops 1,200%:
"Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate continues its upward surge, reaching a record high of 1,204.6% in August, and adding greater strain to the economy."
Why is hyperinflation such a problem? Ignoring the impact it has on debt holders (they would get paid back with money that is next to worthless), try to imagine how inflation like that would affect your own behavior.

No longer would you hold any cash, you would want to spend any check immediately, you would want to be paid on a daily basis, etc. You forgo money and the economy falls back in to a barter system. All of this is inefficient and takes a toll on the economy.

More importantly, those who had saved money (especially in fixed income investments), will see their savings evaporate. This creates a sense of panic and increased risk premiums.

As people take their money out of banks, that source of capital disappears. This too hurts the economy and often leads to further government borrowing (which gives the central bank the incentive to monetize the debt).

Further, the sense of uncertainty and decline in value of the currency leads to hoarding of supplies (and accompanying shortages).

Which is a long winded way of saying that hyper-inflation is not merely "moving the decimal place" but that it does have serious economic repercussions.

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