Our Economy Needs A Good Dose Of Customer-Driven Deflation

 Authored by James Anthony via The Mises Institute,

Inflation is created by governments, so the solution to inflation is political. Governments and cronies falsely claim that inflation is good or even necessary, when it’s neither. It’s just best for elites. Deflation, on the other hand, comes naturally when customers are in control, and this customer-driven deflation brings sustainable investment and increased productivity. This is best for everyone.

Our Economy Needs A Good Dose Of Customer-Driven Deflation

Government-Created Inflation

Price “stability” (stagnation) or price inflation is caused by inflation of the quantity of government money by government people and cronies.

When money is created by government people, they borrow by creating Treasury bonds. The value that the Treasury people borrow this way is taken and spent right away by politicians to favor cronies. In return, cronies contribute to politicians’ campaigns and get their favored politicians elected.

The interest on the Treasury bonds is paid by taxpayers. The principal of the Treasury bonds keeps getting rolled over into new Treasury bonds and never gets paid back. The value of this principal, along with the value of all other holdings that are denominated in dollars, eventually gets driven to near zero by inflating endlessly. The resulting inflation losses are borne by everyone who uses dollars.

When money is created by government-crony banks, they simultaneously create loan money and loan liabilities, and they loan the money to producers and customers. The fact that loans are easily available sends a false signal to producers that customers have saved money and will spend it later if producers build better processes and products, so producers make investments.

As producers and other borrowers pay back the principal on their loans, the crony banks need to eliminate their liability for this money they created, so as this created money gets repaid, the crony banks destroy it. When producers’ investments come to fruition and the resulting better products are offered for sale, the savings that customers would use to buy these products aren’t there. Such savings never were there. Because of this, some portion of producers’ investments turns out to have been malinvestment. Malinvestment compounds until some producers no longer generate the required interest payments and no longer get propped up by further government-granted privileges or bailouts.

Through money creation these producers’ plants were created, and through money destruction these producers are destroyed. Through this destruction, malinvestment generates crises. In crises as of late, cronies create even-more inflation, which is crisis inflation.

Government-Created Deflation

In crises in earlier times—which also were initiated by inflation of the quantity of money by government people and cronies—crisis deflation of prices has resulted from further actions by government people and cronies.

In exercising their government-granted money-creation privileges, crony banks have circulated money without holding enough reserves to cover all deposits they promise to produce on demand and to cover all bad loans. This system design is not only unconstitutional but also unstable.

Borrowers are subject to competition, and they make mistakes, and they suffer disasters. Borrowers haven’t been able to insure against every problem. Some loans have failed.

In times of such failures, depositors have understandably not trusted that crony banks have had enough reserves to stay open. Some depositors have tried to withdraw their money, creating runs on these banks. Some banks have gone bankrupt. When they have, all the assets they have listed on paper but haven’t backed by reserves have been suddenly destroyed.

This destruction of paper wealth has deflated the total quantity of money. For products to sell, producers have then needed to reduce their prices. This has deflated product prices. When product prices have been deflated, either labor prices (wages) have had to be deflated or jobs have been destroyed. With fewer dollars being used to buy and sell the same products at the same rates, each dollar has become worth more.

In general, the falling nominal wages have ended up sufficient to cover the falling product prices. But for borrowers who have had existing loans, their falling nominal wages haven’t ended up sufficient to cover their unchanged nominal loan payments and principal.

For borrowers, this midstream change in the real values of their loan payments and principal has been a substantial hardship that they didn’t create. For cronies, this change has been a substantial windfall that they, empowered by the government people, did create.

The government people, though, despite having been the root cause of this crisis deflation, haven’t required their cronies to discount the nominal loan payments and principal to make the real values match the real values that both parties had contracted to exchange.

Every borrower who hasn’t been relieved by bankers acting on their own and who hasn’t been relieved by government people restoring the original real terms has been squeezed hard. Some, and oftentimes many, have failed. These failures have left more banks with unanticipated losses, leading depositors to make unanticipated withdrawals, leaving more banks destroyed, multiplying losses much-more widely.

Crisis deflation has enabled government people to greatly ratchet up government. The 2.5-year panic of October 1839 through March 1842 ended the initially small-government Democrats’ plan to systematically greatly-limit government using three presidents over 24 years, destroying that plan after just 12 years. The 1.4‑year recession of January 1893 through June 1894 eliminated the last small-government major party by transforming the Democrats into a big-government party.

Customer-Driven Deflation

Deflation of prices can instead be achieved by keeping the quantity of money constant and leaving individual producers free to increase their productivity. Productivity increases come naturally when savers, investors, producers, and customers act freely.

Savers store up past value-added to be spent later. Saving makes investments sustainable, because when better products are produced by this investment and these loans are paid back, this earned-and-saved money will be available to spend on these products. Saving also increases the sustainable investment and learning and innovation that increase productivity, so the same quantity of money buys more and better products.

Changing over from the current inflationary regime will be simple. All that’s needed is to stop granting crony banks the unconstitutional privilege to use fractional reserves, and to transform crony fractional-reserve banks into value-adding full-reserve banks, with a few simple actions:

  • Repeal banks’ privilege to hold fractional reserves.

  • Create and transfer to banks the quantity of money needed to back all current deposits with full reserves.

  • Transfer ownership of all bank assets to mutual funds. (Transferring ownership from the current owners is appropriate because the current owners are cronies who are accepting the banks’ crony privileges.)

  • Distribute the same fraction of shares in these mutual funds to every citizen. (Some people have had much value taken from them. Other people have been stopped from adding much or any value in the first place. This dispensation provides a simple, reasonable path forward.)

Repeal won’t require government people to administer new scope by promulgating new programs. After these one-time transfers of money and ownership, government people will be required to do nothing.

The Fed was government-spawned to address government-caused panics. But once banks are required to hold in reserve all the money they’re required to pay out on demand, these panics will be fully prevented with no added controls and no accompanying variation, error, and risk.

Savers, investors, producers, and customers will no longer have to readjust their choices in response to the Fed’s every move, in addition to readjusting their choices in response to all the other, smaller changes around them. Savers’, investors’, producers’, and customers’ choices will be more accurate and optimal.

Customers, Freely-Competing Producers, and Voters Unite!

So why haven’t we gotten the government people to make these simple changes before? When the government people make these changes, all the built-up malinvestment won’t be sustainable and must fail.

For the entrenched government people and cronies, such a transition has been a genuine fight to the death of their longstanding way of life. Their unearned advantages over us would end. The cronies’ malinvestments would fail and the failed businesses would be destroyed. To block such change, these elites have constantly pushed out their narratives using every channel they control: academia, most media, and supermajorities of politicians.

But now we know what’s wrong and we know what to do about it. This time when the built-up malinvestment fails, people will again do what people usually do in uncertain times: they will start saving more. This time, though, their savings won’t be undercut by government and crony money-creation that unsustainably lowers interest rates, so this time people will keep saving more. Producers will sustainably create new jobs. Workers will choose those jobs.

What will determine the duration of this initial transition will be the durations of these overlapping initial changes to saving more, creating new jobs, and moving to new jobs. These initial new jobs can be created and filled surprisingly quickly, once enough producers start working to use this transition to their best advantage.

All recoveries’ delays and rates are determined by producers’ choices. In this recovery, producers won’t be awash in inflated money, but producers will be keenly aware of the dawning of a free, new regime. Once government actions are changed for the better, this brings good results that are politically popular, and this popularity helps hold these changes in place.

Opportunities will be everywhere; first-mover advantages will beckon. Like producers did after World War II, producers will move fast. Ongoing development of still-better jobs will proceed at a furious pace.

Price stagnation or price inflation is evidence that governments and cronies are grabbing advantages over us. Crisis deflation in years past was evidence that governments and cronies were taking advantage of us. Customer-driven deflation has been, and will be, evidence that the playing field is level and that customers are in control.

Customer-driven deflation is the economic way that we live better. The best time to get started at living better is always right now.

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