Nine Thoughts on the Problems of Printing Money

It's not good for the peasants.

Devin Foley | September 4, 2015 | 811

It's not good for the peasants.
Nine Thoughts on the Problems of Printing Money

For some, a small dose of mild inflation, say 2% annually, is necessary for economic growth. For others, the act of inflation inherently reduces purchasing power and alters investing, savings, and business development. Most, though, would agree on the dangers of a purposeful use of inflation to get out of economic profligacy.

With all of that in mind, here are nine quotes on inflation that should get you thinking.

The most important thing to remember is that inflation is not an act of God, that inflation is not a catastrophe of the elements or a disease that comes like the plague. Inflation is a policy.'

- Ludwig von Mises, Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow, 1979


'Five simple truths embody most of what we know about inflation:

  1. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon arising from a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output (though, of course, the reasons for the increase in money may be various).

  2. In today's world government determines -- or can determine -- the quantity of money.

  3. There is only one cure for inflation: a slower rate of increase in the quantity of money.

  4. It takes time -- measured in years, not months -- for inflation to develop; it takes time for inflation to be cured.

  5. Unpleasant side effects of the cure are unavoidable.'

    - Milton Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, 1990


'Only two of my predecessors have come in person to call upon Congress for a declaration of war, and I shall not do that. But I say to you with all sincerity that our inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberty, our property, and finally our national pride, as surely as any well-armed wartime enemy.'


- President Gerald R. Ford, Address to a Joint Session of Congress on the Economy, 1974


'Like every other tax, inflation acts to determine the individual and business policies we are all forced to follow. It discourages all prudence and thrift. It encourages squandering, gambling, reckless waste of all kind. It often makes it more profitable to speculate than to produce. It tears apart the whole fabric of stable economic relationships. Its inexcusable injustices drive men toward desperate remedies. It plants the seeds of fascism and communism. It leads men to demand totalitarian controls. It ends invariably in bitter disillusion and collapse.'

- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson, 1946


'The great majority of central banks were established after 1900 to help governments spend money they didn’t have. They became engines of inflation. The largest number of runaway inflations and the worst runaway inflations have occurred since 1900.'

- Jim Powell, Rich Nations That Went Broke By Spending Too Much, 2011


'Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent) that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.'

- Ben S. Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, 2002


'The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.'

- Ernest Hemingway, Notes on the Next War: A Serious Topical Letter, 1935​


'Inflation is a disease, a dangerous and sometimes fatal disease, a disease that if not checked in time can destroy a society.'

- Milton Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, 1990


'Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. He agrees with Lenin that inflation has the potentiality of destroying the basis of capitalist society. Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.'

- John Maynard Keynes, Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919


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