Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inflation... a lot more complicated than most libertarians are willing to lend it credit for.

Theft is too simple a description for what is going on, and too ignorant.

There's a wealth transfer, to be certain.  But this is not the same as theft.  If I own one of a limited printing of comic book, and the publisher prints more of these comic books out, my copy may become worth less - there is a wealth transfer from me to the owners of the newly printed and discounted copies - but nothing has been -stolen- from me.

And if tomorrow alchemy finally succeeds and lead can be freely turned into gold, although gold becomes worthless in the world, nothing is stolen from those who hoarded it.  What happens if a massive deposit is tomorrow discovered in some remote part of Siberia?  Gold rapidly loses its value.

A relatively common example in finance is stock dilution - the issuance of additional stock, diluting the value of existing stock and reducing everybody's percentage ownership of the company in exchange for capital investment.  (This is in fact more extreme an example than any other, because the result is that you literally own less of a tangible asset, as opposed to holding the same amount of a tangible asset with reduced value.)

What has happened is that an expectation is broken, perhaps an implicit contract that everybody bought into.  For it to be theft, that contract has to be explicit.

Therefore, what has not happened is theft.

Inflation is dangerous, yes.  But any damage any individual, or group of individuals, takes as a result of inflation is the direct result of their buying into an idea - the idea that money is a safe store of value.  The primary danger inflation poses is not to the public, which has a diverse economy, but to the government, which doesn't.  The government has a monopoly on money it is squandering for short-term interests.

There is no safe store of value.  Not pork, not gold, not real estate - not money.  The longing for a safe store of value is understandable, but in the end no different from the longing for a secure occupation, or a secure investment; it is a refusal to deal with reality on reality's terms.

I return to the proposition that inflation is dangerous - it is dangerous to the government, above and beyond all else.  Which is why the government must maintain that monopoly in order to be effective.

The evil in inflation is not the inflation itself, but the monopoly that demands that the country be a party to the collapsing currency, through not only the money itself, but the tax system which must be paid in it.  I see articles throughout the Internet about one particular evil of capitalism - the necessity of money.

It is not business that will seize your wilderness abode for lack of property tax payment; you rail at government and call it capitalism, an injustice of the grossest sort.  But that is another topic entirely.

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