No, Deflation is Not a ‘Danger’ |.
The ‘Deflation Danger’ Should Abate …
What is it with this perennial fear the chief money printers have of falling prices? Not that we are likely to see it happen, but if it does, what of it? Bloomberg reports on the recent ECB decision with the following headline: “Draghi Says Deflation Danger Should Abate as Economy Revives”
The headline alone is a hodge-podge of arrant nonsense. First of all, ‘deflation’ (this is to say, falling prices), is not a ‘danger’. Speaking for ourselves and billions of earth’s consumers: we love it when prices fall! It means our incomes go further and our savings will buy more as well. What’s not to love?
The problem is of course that when prices decline, the ‘wrong’ sectors of society actually benefit, while those whose bread is buttered by the inflation tax would no longer benefit at the expense of everybody else. But they never say that, do they? Has Draghi ever explained why he believes deflation to be a danger? No, we are just supposed to know/accept that it is.
Secondly, the ‘as economy revives’ part makes no sense whatsoever. Why and how should a genuinely reviving economy produce inflation? Economic growth occurs when more goods and services are produced. Their prices should, ceteris paribus, fall (of course, we are not supposed to inquire too deeply into which ceteris likely won’t remain paribus if Draghi gets his wish).
“ European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled that deflation risks in the euro region are easing for now after new forecasts showed that inflation will approach their target by the end of 2016.
The news that has come out since the last monetary policy meeting are by and large on the positive side,” he told reporters in Frankfurt today after the central bank kept itsmain interest rate at 0.25 percent. He also indicated that money markets are under control at the moment, lessening the need for emergency liquidity measures.
Draghi is facing down the threat of deflation in an economy still recovering from a debt crisis that threatened to rip it apart less than two years ago. New ECB forecasts today underscore his view that the 18-nation bloc will escape a Japan-style period of falling prices as momentum in the economy improves.”
We have highlighted the sentence above because we keep reading about the ‘Japan-style deflation trap’ for many, many years now. You would think that Japan was a third world country by now the way this keeps being portrayed as a kind of monetary evil incarnate that destroys the economy. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Inflation is Not Equivalent to Economic Growth
‘Inflation’ is not the same as ‘economic growth’ – on the contrary, it both causes and frequently masks economic retrogression. How much inflation has there been in the euro area over time? Let’s have a look.
The euro area’s true money supply since 1980. One can only shudder at this depiction of ‘deflation danger’ in action – click to enlarge.
What about prices though? Let’s have a look-see:
Since 1960, there was exactly one year during which prices according to the ‘CPI’ measure actually fell, namely in 2009, by a grand total of 0.5% – click to enlarge.
As Austrian economists have long explained, it is simply untrue that prices must rise for the economy to grow. Consumersobviously benefit from falling prices (only Keynesian like Paul Krugman don’t realize that, as their thought processes are evidently unsullied by logic and/or common sense). All of us can easily ascertain how beneficial the decline in computer prices, cell- and smart phone prices, prices for TV screens, etc. is. Naturally, it would be even better if all prices fell, not only those on a select group of consumer goods.
What about producers? Won’t they suffer? By simply looking at the share prices and earnings of the companies that make all the technological gadgets the prices of which have been continually declining for decades, everybody should realize immediately that the answer must be a resounding NO. This is by the way not only true of the firms that are in the final stages of the production process, i.e. the stages closest to the consumer. It is obviously also true for the firms in the higher stages of the capital structure. But why? It is quite simple actually: prices are imputed all along the chain of production. What is important for these companies to thrive are not the nominal prices of the products they sell, but the price spreadsbetween their input and output.
In fact, the computer/electronics sector is the one that comes closest to showing us how things would likely look in a free, unhampered market economy.
Of course, in said free, unhampered market economy, Mr. Draghi and a host of other central planners would have to look for a new job.
Charts by: ECB