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Governments Could Stop Inflating If They Wanted. But They Won’t
Daniel Lacalle

Price inflation is no coincidence. It is a policy. Governments, along with their so-called experts, attempt to persuade you that price inflation stems from anything other than the consistent, albeit slower, rise in aggregate prices year after year. Issuing more currency than the private sector demands, thus eroding its purchasing power and creating a constant annual transfer of wealth from real wages and deposit savings to the government.

Oil prices are not a cause of inflation but a consequence. Prices increase as more units of the currency used to denominate the commodity shift to relatively scarce assets. Therefore, oil prices do not cause inflation; they are one of the signals of currency debasement. Furthermore, if oil prices caused inflation, we would go from inflation to deflation quickly, not from elevated inflation to slower price increases.

The same goes for all the causes that governments and their agents try to use as an excuse for rising prices. Most are just manifestations, not causes of inflation. Even if the global economy were dominated by three evil and stupid oligopolistic businesses, they would not be able to increase aggregate prices and maintain an annual increase if the quantity of currency in the system were to remain equal. Why? Two things would happen. First, those three monopolistic evil corporations would see their working capital soar because citizens would not have enough units of currency to pay for all they produce. Two, the rest of the prices would decline as there would be a significantly lower number of units of currency to purchase other goods and services.

Even a group of quasi-monopolistic corporations cannot make all prices rise in unison and consolidate the annual level, only to continue rising. However, the monopolistic issuer of the currency, the government, can make all prices rise while at the same time diminishing the purchasing power of the units of state debt that they issue.

It is surprising to see how some so-called experts say that a few large corporations make all prices rise but deny that the state that monopolizes the creation of money is the cause of price inflation.

Governments are at the root of rising prices. While banks can generate money—credit—through lending, they rely on projects and investments to support these loans. Banks cannot create money to bail themselves out. No financial entity would go bankrupt then. In fact, banks’ largest asset imbalance comes from lending at rates below the cost of risk and having government loans and bonds as “no-risk” investments, two things that are imposed by regulation, law, and central bank planning. Meanwhile, the state does issue more currency to disguise its fiscal imbalances and bail itself out, using regulation, legislation, and coercion to impose the use of its own form of money.

Monopolies cannot simply drive up prices unless they are able to force consumers to use their products without any decline in demand. We also must understand that destructive and inefficient monopolies can only exist if the state imposes them. In any other situation, those monopolies disappear due to competition, technology, and cheaper imports from other nations. So, which is the only monopoly that can force consumers to use their product regardless of the real demand for it? Government fiat money.

The government is the largest economic agent and therefore the most important driver of aggregate demand, as well as the issuer of currency. The government can end today’s high price-inflation rates any time by eliminating the unnecessary spending that causes the deficit, which is the same as money printing. Taxing the private sector to cut price inflation is like starving the children to make the fat parent lose weight.

If Senator Warren and President Biden were right and corporations were to blame for rising inflation, competition, cheaper imports, and a decline in demand, they would have taken care of their unjustified prices. Only the government can cause and perpetuate inflation, using the central bank as its financial arm and regulation as the imposition of the state’s IOU (currency) as the “lowest-risk asset” in banks’ assets. The government creates the currency and imposes it, and when its purchasing power declines, it blames the economic agents that are forced to use its form of money.

MMT defenders and neo-Keynesians say that the government can issue all the currency that they need and that their limit is not fiscal (deficit and debt) but price inflation. It makes no sense because price inflation is the manifestation of an unsustainable fiscal problem, reflected in the vanishing confidence in the currency issuer. It is, literally, like a giant corporation issuing debt endlessly and thinking nothing matters. It is a subterfuge to implement the constant increase in size of government in the economy, knowing that once it controls a large part, it is virtually impossible to stop the state.

Stephanie Kelton and others say the government should spend all it wants and, if price inflation rises, tax the excessive money away. This is funny. So, the government increases size on the way in, spending and diluting the purchasing power of the private sector’s earnings and savings, and then taxes the private sector, thus increasing the size of government on the way out. Furthermore, there is no government that would recognize that price inflation comes from spending too much, so the destruction of the private sector continues and the diminishing confidence in the currency extends, as history has proven numerous times.

Governments cannot tax away the price inflation they have created by bloating spending. They can only weaken the private productive sector further and worsen the economic situation and the price inflation outlook.

There is no such thing as perennial monetary sovereignty. Like any form of debt, currency demand disappears with the government’s solvency and the economic weakness of the private sector consumed by taxes. Once the government destroys confidence in the currency as a reserve of value, the private sector will find some other way to make transactions outside of the imposition of a state-issued currency.

When governments present themselves as the solution to price inflation with large spending programs and subsidies, they are only printing more money, like putting out a fire with gasoline.

Biden says the government has a plan to cut price inflation, but all they have done is perpetuate it, making citizens poorer and the productive sector weaker.

If Biden wants to cut price inflation, all he must do is eliminate the deficit by cutting expenditures. The reason why governments should never oversee monetary policy and be allowed to monetize all deficits is because no administration will cut its size to defend citizens’ wages because nationalization by monetary inflation and taxes is the goal of interventionism: to create a dependent and hostage economy.

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Daniel Lacalle, PhD, economist and fund manager, is the author of the bestselling books Freedom or Equality (2020), Escape from the Central Bank Trap (2017), The Energy World Is Flat​ (2015), and Life in the Financial Markets (2014).

He is a professor of global economy at IE Business School in Madrid.

Ranked as one of the top twenty most influential economists in the world in 2016 and 2017 by Richtopia, he holds the CIIA financial analyst title, with a postgraduate degree in higher business studies and a master’s degree in economic investigation. He is a member of the advisory board of the Rafael del Pino Foundation and Commissioner of the Community of Madrid in London.

Lacalle is a regular collaborator with CNBC, Bloomberg TV, BBC, Hedgeye, Seeking Alpha, Business Insider, Mises Institute, and the Epoch Times as well as an occasional consultant for the World Economic Forum, Focus Economics, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other major news publications around the world.

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