Signs of Coming Hyperinflation are Unmistakable, says Alasdair Macleod

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Alasdair Macleod of believes signs of the onset of a period of hyperinflation – and along with it the collapse of the U.S. dollar – are unmistakable. In a recent piece he laid out the history of such past episodes of rapid inflation and the collapses of related currencies.

He says fundamentals, such as significant levels of money-printing and the behavior of foreign investors in such currencies, are telltale signs of coming financial trouble. He draws parallels between episodes in the past and the time we are living through now, in the U.S.

Below are excerpts taken from Macleod’s piece:

“The effect of monetary inflation, even at two per cent increases, is to transfer wealth from savers, salary-earners, pensioners and welfare beneficiaries to the government. In no way, other than perhaps from temporary distortions, does this benefit the people as a whole. It also transfers wealth from savers to borrowers by diminishing the value of capital over time…”

“No doubt, the reluctance to reduce, or at least contain budget deficits is ruled out by the presidential election in November. But whoever wins, it seems unlikely that government spending will be reined in or tax revenue increased. For the universal truth of unbacked state currencies is that so long as they can be issued to cover budget deficits they will be issued. And as an inflated currency ends up buying less, the pace of its issuance all else being equal will accelerate to compensate. It is one of the driving forces behind hyperinflation of the quantity of money…”

“Since the Lehman crisis in August 2008, the pace of monetary inflation has accelerated above its long-term average…”

“What is the source of all that extra money? It is raised through quantitative easing by the central bank in a system that bends rules that are intended to stop the Fed from just printing money and handing it to the government. Yet it achieves just that. The US Treasury issues bonds by auction in the normal fashion. The major banks through their prime brokers bid for them in the knowledge that the Fed sets the yield for different maturities through its market operations. The Fed buys Treasury bonds up to the previously announced monthly QE limit, only now there is no limit, giving the primary brokers a guaranteed turn and crediting the selling banks’ reserve accounts with the proceeds.”

“This arm’s length arrangement absolves the Fed of the sin of direct money-printing but evades the rules by indirect money-printing. The Treasury gets extra funding through this roundabout arrangement. Participating banks generally expand their bank credit to absorb the new issue, which they then sell to the Fed, which in turn credits the banks’ reserve accounts. The Treasury gets the proceeds of the bonds to cover the deficit in government spending, and the banks get expanded reserves. The Fed’s balance sheet sees an increase in its liabilities to commercial banks and an increase in its assets of Treasury bonds. The Fed also funds agency debt in this manner, mostly representing mortgage finance…”

“For now, monetary authorities around the world are relying on public ignorance about money and the theory of exchange. Those who trouble themselves to consider how their currency’s purchasing power is actually changing will notice how it is declining more rapidly than official statistics say. This is deliberate. After the introduction of widespread indexation in the early 1980s governments devised methods to reduce the costs incurred. Changes in statistical methodology have achieved that, with consumer price indices now entirely suppressed, so much so that central banks claim to be struggling to get the CPI to rise to its two per cent target…”

“China has already declared a policy of reducing her dollar investments in US Treasury bonds and is selling her dollars to buy commodities. Few realise it, but China is doing what ordinary people do when they begin to abandon a currency — dumping it for tangible goods which will cost more in future due to the dollar’s declining purchasing power. And as the dollar’s purchasing power declines measured in commodities more nations are likely to follow China’s lead…”

“The way to look at it is by understanding the foreigners’ assessment of time preference, comprised of a general level for the exchange of goods and an additional level peculiar to a depreciating currency. Therefore, irrespective of the Fed’s interest rate policy market forces represented by foreign interests will take over control of interest rates, and the Fed’s bond bubble will be burst. Rising yields for US Treasuries will collapse the equity market and the market for corporate debt. These events will threaten any remaining foreign interest in the dollar and its capital markets even further. In short, the policy of inflating a financial asset bubble becomes impossible to sustain and its failure will take the dollar down with it as well.”

“This was why when John Law’s Mississippi bubble burst three hundred years ago, by October 1720 his currency, the livre, was worthless on the foreign exchanges. The collapse had started eleven months earlier, when Law accelerated the inflation of the livre to support a failing share price. The Fed embarked on a doppelganger acceleration of monetary inflation on 23 March for the whole US bond market. If we replicate the John Law experience, the dollar could become valueless in a matter of months.”

“It is becoming clear to a growing audience that in the absence of a change in inflationary policies, the days of an unbacked dollar are rapidly coming to an end, and it will take down the international fiat order upon which it is based.”

You can read Macleod’s essay in its entirety here.

Photo by Paul via Flickr

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