Bankruptcies of governments have, on the whole, done less harm to mankind than their ability to raise loans.
—R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 1926
By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.
—John Maynard Keynes, Economic Consequences of Peace
Unemployed men took one or two rucksacks and went from peasant to peasant. They even took the train to favorable locations to get foodstuffs illegally which they sold afterwards in the town at three or fourfold the prices they had paid themselves. First the peasants were happy about the great amount of paper money which rained into their houses for their eggs and butter. . . . However, when they came to town with their full briefcases to buy goods, they discovered to their chagrin that, whereas they had only asked for a fivefold price for their produce, the prices for scythe, hammer and cauldron, which they wanted to buy, had risen by a factor of 50.
—Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday, 1941
I have had a lot of questions about my thoughts on inflation and hyperinflation of late, especially in the new “Ask Mauldin” section on www.johnmauldin.com. Unfortunately, the answer is not short and simple. The good news is that my new book has an entire chapter on inflation and hyperinflation, and today, as I fly to La Jolla (more below), I give you that chapter as this week’s letter. The letter will print a little long, as there are a lot of charts. Hopefully it will encourage you to want to read the rest of the book!
Please note, my co-author (Jonathon Tepper) and I have different views on the subject, for different countries. In some, we consider high (or worse) inflation a serious prospect. In others the opposite is true. There is no one size fits all. And of course our best estimates today are based solely on the facts as we know them – if the facts change, so will our opinions. When we wrote this chapter late last year, it was not obvious that the Fed would purchase 100% of the US debt. We currently assume that will stop. If it does not, then the lessons of this chapter are more important than we would like them to be. Inflation and hyperinflation are choices made by humans. That means there is an element of uncertainty, when logic would dictate there should not be. And also, we start off the chapter a little tongue in cheek (we are NOT really recommending inflation as an answer to debt!).
Endgame got up to #2 on Amazon yesterday (#1 non-fiction). Thanks to all you faithful readers who bought the book, whether there or at your local bookstores. Maybe this weekend, those of you who procrastinated will help us get to #1! And if you are going to buy some extra books for clients, family, or friends go ahead and do it now! No more procrastination! Go to www.Amazon.com/endgame and get clicking!
I just bought the book myself (really!) on Kindle. I need it on my IPad for reference. It works great! And we are #1 on Kindle! OK, I will only be this aggressive for another month or so, then it’s back into regular e-letter mode, but cut me some slack – books are a big deal for my generation. And I think this one adds some important insights to the national conversations that must be had around the world. Now, let’s jump into the chapter on inflation.
In the previous chapter, we looked at deflation. Now let’s look at the opposite: inflation and even hyperinflation. Hyperinflation is an extreme case of inflation and a nightmare for anyone living it.
We know that the world is drowning in too much debt, and it is unlikely that households and governments everywhere will be able to pay down that debt. Doing so in some cases is impossible, and in other cases…