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Difference between Inflation and Hyperinflation


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A friend sent me an article talking about the possibilities of Hyperinflation, the article was advocating the possibility of Hyperinflation and was from a rather alarmist perspective but laid out a potential scenario where we could jump from deflation straight to hyperinflation. but the thing that interested me was the distinction that it made between inflation and hyperinflation and I wondered if this was the case because I had always taken hyperinflation to be inflations that escalates rapidly.

 

Here was the explanation in the article.

 

Most people dismiss the very notion of hyperinflation occurring in the United States as something only tin-foil hatters, gold-bugs, and Right-wing survivalists drool about. In fact, most sensible people don’t even bother arguing the issue at all—everyone knows that only fools bother arguing with a bigger fool.

 

A minority, though—and God bless ’em—actually do go ahead and go through the motions of talking to the crazies ranting about hyperinflation. These amiable souls diligently point out that in a deflationary environment—where commodity prices are more or less stable, there are downward pressures on wages, asset prices are falling, and credit markets are shrinking—inflation is impossible. Therefore, hyperinflation is even more impossible.

 

This outlook seems sensible—if we fall for the trap of thinking that hyperinflation is an extention of inflation. If we think that hyperinflation is simply inflation on steroids—inflation-plus—inflation with balls—then it would seem to be the case that, in our current deflationary economic environment, hyperinflation is not simply a long way off, but flat-out ridiculous.

 

But hyperinflation is not an extension or amplification of inflation. Inflation and hyperinflation are two very distinct animals. They look the same—because in both cases, the currency loses its purchasing power—but they are not the same.

 

Inflation is when the economy overheats: It’s when an economy’s consumables (labor and commodities) are so in-demand because of economic growth, coupled with an expansionist credit environment, that the consumables rise in price. This forces all goods and services to rise in price as well, so that producers can keep up with costs. It is essentially a demand-driven phenomena.

 

Hyperinflation is the loss of faith in the currency. Prices rise in a hyperinflationary environment just like in an inflationary environment, but they rise not because people want more money for their labor or for commodities, but because people are trying to get out of the currency. It’s not that they want more money—they want less of the currency: So they will pay anything for a good which is not the currency.

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A friend sent me an article talking about the possibilities of Hyperinflation, the article was advocating the possibility of Hyperinflation and was from a rather alarmist perspective but laid out a potential scenario where we could jump from deflation straight to hyperinflation. but the thing that interested me was the distinction that it made between inflation and hyperinflation and I wondered if this was the case because I had always taken hyperinflation to be inflations that escalates rapidly.

 

Here was the explanation in the article.

 

Most people dismiss the very notion of hyperinflation occurring in the United States as something only tin-foil hatters, gold-bugs, and Right-wing survivalists drool about. In fact, most sensible people don’t even bother arguing the issue at all—everyone knows that only fools bother arguing with a bigger fool.

 

A minority, though—and God bless ’em—actually do go ahead and go through the motions of talking to the crazies ranting about hyperinflation. These amiable souls diligently point out that in a deflationary environment—where commodity prices are more or less stable, there are downward pressures on wages, asset prices are falling, and credit markets are shrinking—inflation is impossible. Therefore, hyperinflation is even more impossible.

 

This outlook seems sensible—if we fall for the trap of thinking that hyperinflation is an extention of inflation. If we think that hyperinflation is simply inflation on steroids—inflation-plus—inflation with balls—then it would seem to be the case that, in our current deflationary economic environment, hyperinflation is not simply a long way off, but flat-out ridiculous.

 

But hyperinflation is not an extension or amplification of inflation. Inflation and hyperinflation are two very distinct animals. They look the same—because in both cases, the currency loses its purchasing power—but they are not the same.

 

Inflation is when the economy overheats: It’s when an economy’s consumables (labor and commodities) are so in-demand because of economic growth, coupled with an expansionist credit environment, that the consumables rise in price. This forces all goods and services to rise in price as well, so that producers can keep up with costs. It is essentially a demand-driven phenomena.

 

Hyperinflation is the loss of faith in the currency. Prices rise in a hyperinflationary environment just like in an inflationary environment, but they rise not because people want more money for their labor or for commodities, but because people are trying to get out of the currency. It’s not that they want more money—they want less of the currency: So they will pay anything for a good which is not the currency.

 

 

Thanks, small cap, for pointing out this very important distinction.

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A friend sent me an article talking about the possibilities of Hyperinflation, the article was advocating the possibility of Hyperinflation and was from a rather alarmist perspective but laid out a potential scenario where we could jump from deflation straight to hyperinflation. but the thing that interested me was the distinction that it made between inflation and hyperinflation and I wondered if this was the case because I had always taken hyperinflation to be inflations that escalates rapidly.

 

Here was the explanation in the article.

 

Most people dismiss the very notion of hyperinflation occurring in the United States as something only tin-foil hatters, gold-bugs, and Right-wing survivalists drool about. In fact, most sensible people don’t even bother arguing the issue at all—everyone knows that only fools bother arguing with a bigger fool.

 

A minority, though—and God bless ’em—actually do go ahead and go through the motions of talking to the crazies ranting about hyperinflation. These amiable souls diligently point out that in a deflationary environment—where commodity prices are more or less stable, there are downward pressures on wages, asset prices are falling, and credit markets are shrinking—inflation is impossible. Therefore, hyperinflation is even more impossible.

 

This outlook seems sensible—if we fall for the trap of thinking that hyperinflation is an extention of inflation. If we think that hyperinflation is simply inflation on steroids—inflation-plus—inflation with balls—then it would seem to be the case that, in our current deflationary economic environment, hyperinflation is not simply a long way off, but flat-out ridiculous.

 

But hyperinflation is not an extension or amplification of inflation. Inflation and hyperinflation are two very distinct animals. They look the same—because in both cases, the currency loses its purchasing power—but they are not the same.

 

Inflation is when the economy overheats: It’s when an economy’s consumables (labor and commodities) are so in-demand because of economic growth, coupled with an expansionist credit environment, that the consumables rise in price. This forces all goods and services to rise in price as well, so that producers can keep up with costs. It is essentially a demand-driven phenomena.

 

Hyperinflation is the loss of faith in the currency. Prices rise in a hyperinflationary environment just like in an inflationary environment, but they rise not because people want more money for their labor or for commodities, but because people are trying to get out of the currency. It’s not that they want more money—they want less of the currency: So they will pay anything for a good which is not the currency.

 

I think all this servers is for the alarmist to be even more alarmed and get themselves needlessly riled up. But I think that is what an alarmist wants.

 

I do not think this distinction makes any sense. Hyperinflation as commonly understood is sustained annual inflation in the hundreds and thousands of percent.

 

Vinod

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Histories of the German Weimar period of hyperinflation abound.  It lasted about 2 years (1922-1923) IIRC.  During the period there were numerous commodity-indexed currency substitutes that were used in commercial transactions.  Potato-linked and wheat-linked notes.  I have a good history of that episode somewhere but the details escape me.  I'll post it later.

 

There's a short article by Reinhart and Savastano called "The Realities of Modern Hyperinflation" published in 2003. That discusses more recent episodes.

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