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What Is Deflation And What Causes It To Occur?

2469 words - 10 pages

DEFINING INFLATION AND DEFLATIONWebster's says, "Inflation is an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods," and "Deflation is a contraction in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods." To understand inflation and deflation, we have to understand the terms money and credit.DEFINING MONEY AND CREDITMoney is a socially accepted medium of exchange, value storage and final payment. A specified amount of that medium also serves as a unit of account.According to its two financial definitions, credit may be summarized as a right to access money. Credit can be held by the owner of the money, in the form of a warehouse receipt for a money deposit, which today is a checking account at a bank. Credit can also be transferred by the owner or by the owner's custodial institution to a borrower in exchange for a fee or fees - called interest - as specified in a repayment contract called a bond, note, bill or just plain IOU, which is debt. In today's economy, most credit is lent, so people often use the terms "credit" and "debt" interchangeably, as money lent by one entity is simultaneously money borrowed by another.PRICE EFFECTS OF INFLATION AND DEFLATIONWhen the volume of money and credit rises relative to the volume of goods available, the relative value of each unit of money falls, making prices for goods generally rise. When the volume of money and credit falls relative to the volume of goods available, the relative value of each unit of money rises, making prices of goods generally fall. Though many people find it difficult to do, the proper way to conceive of these changes is that the value of units of money are rising and falling, not the values of goods.The most common misunderstanding about inflation and deflation - echoed even by some renowned economists - is the idea that inflation is rising prices and deflation is falling prices. General price changes, though, are simply effects.The price effects of inflation can occur in goods, which most people recognize as relating to inflation, or in investment assets, which people do not generally recognize as relating to inflation. The inflation of the 1970s induced dramatic price rises in gold, silver and commodities. The inflation of the 1980s and 1990s induced dramatic price rises in stock certificates and real estate. This difference in effect is due to differences in the social psychology that accompanies inflation and disinflation, respectively.The price effects of deflation are simpler. They tend to occur across the board, in goods and investment assets simultaneously.THE PRIMARY PRECONDITION OF DEFLATIONDeflation requires a precondition: a major societal buildup in the extension of credit (and its flip side, the assumption of debt). Austrian economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek warned of the consequences of credit expansion, as have a handful of other economists, who today are mostly ignored. Bank credit and Elliott wave expert Hamilton Bolton,...

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