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The Great Inflation, 2010-2012

June 30, 2007

"Everyone loves an early inflation. The effects at the beginning of inflation are all good. There is steepened money expansion, rising government spending, increased government budget deficits, booming stock markets, and spectacular prosperity, all in the midst of temporary stable prices. Everyone benefits, and no one pays. That is the early part of the cycle."

- Dying of Money by Jens Parssons


The year is 2018. The students were excited. It was the first day of school at a prestigious university. One by one they filed in, sat down, pulled out paper and pen. Most were stylishly dressed. This was a private university and the majority of the students were from wealthy families. There was a palpable sense of excitement in this particular classroom. The chatter was beginning to reach a high pitch. This class, Economics 403, The Great Inflation, was being offered for the first time and the instructor, who had not yet entered the class was quite notable - world famous in fact. He had, a few years back, been convicted of orchestrating the Great Inflation. As a part of his sentencing agreement, he was to teach classes on the effects of inflation and consult with governments around the world.

Suddenly, as though on cue, the chatter died down and an aged, rather tired looking man entered the room, a bit disheveled, shoulders humped over. The top button of his shirt was undone and his tie looked as though it were an afterthought. He attempted to smile and said, in a low tone, "Good Morning." Some students responded with a "Good Morning," others just stared. "So this is the guy my parents talk about incessantly," one student whispered to another. After clearing his voice, the instructor stated "This is Economics 403- the Great Inflation. We'll be studying what led up to the Great Inflation and what mistakes were made during this time period. Everything is on the table in this class - my conviction, who's to blame for the hyperinflation, the 18% unemployment rate in the years 2010 to 2012, the riots, and why a new currency was issued in 2013. We're going to talk in this classroom . . . we're going to talk a lot. My mission is to pass on to you the lessons learned from one of the more difficult periods in American history. He looked out into the classroom carefully examining each face. So young, he thought to himself, so young . . . "Questions?"

You could hear a pin drop. All heads went down, as though they were taking their final exams. Finally one brave soul raised her hand . . . "Yes," stated the instructor. "Ah . . . like . . . like, did you really cause it?" She paused. "What caused it?" Her voice rose in pitch to compensate for her nervousness. "My parents said it was a mess! Like, they said it was your fault!" She blurted out. Again, you could hear a pin drop. The students in unison nervously adjusted themselves in their seats. A few coughed. As accusatory as the question was though, the ice had been broken. The students now felt free to ask away.

"Look," the instructor said forcefully. In an instant his voice and mannerisms had changed. There was a noticeable anger in his tone. He had defended his actions at the Fed, during his court trials, and he would be defending himself now in the classroom. "We're going to cover everything in this class. But for now, let's just review a few things." Notebooks opened, pens were at the ready, as the instructor began his talk.

He looked away, as though trying to choose his words in a way that would be understood. "In 1971, Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard. Up until that point in American history, the dollar was essentially backed by gold." "Why gold?" a student blurted out. "Well, gold has been considered money for 5000 years. Gold is hard to find and in short supply. But the thing with gold was, and is, . . . it's a restraint." He paused for a moment, and repeated the word slowly . . . "restraint." He looked around the room. Did they get it? he thought to himself.

"Gold was, in fact, a discipline. The government could only print so much money, based on the amount of gold they possessed. Printing unbacked money (money not backed by gold) had been tried before in history - but it always failed. The Confederate dollar, the 'Continental' printed by the Continental Congress are a few examples."

"Well, what went wrong after that? a student quipped. "Nothing went wrong immediately, but rather, it was the beginning of a slow creeping inflation. A car that cost $3000 in 1971, would cost $7000 in 1980, $14,000 in 1990, $18,000 in the year 2000. Everything was going up in price, medical, housing, food and gas. The national debt grew dramatically too, from a manageable figure in 1970 to one trillion dollars in 1980, three trillion in 1990, and six trillion in 2000. By the end of 2007, the debt was nine trillion dollars and growing."

Why was the government spending so much money? Another student asked. "Without any restraints, it was easy. Just print it and put it out into the system. With this new found freedom, the government found itself taking on new responsibilities and creating new dependencies. Entitlements like the Drug Prescription program and Medicare grew without restraints. By the year 2009 the government had nationalized healthcare. By 2010 the baby boomers were retiring in droves, putting enormous strains on Social Security and Medicare. And by this time, most public institutions were in some way dependent on the federal government for their financial well being."

"At what point did things spin out of control?" asked another student. "Perhaps it was hurricane Katrina that set the stage for what was to take place. After Katrina, it was assumed that the federal government would pay for all of the consequences of any and all disasters, man made, or nature made. When the New Madrid fault, in Missouri, slipped in 2010, creating a 8.9 earthquake on the Richter scale, nobody was prepared for the costs - in the trillions of dollars. There were millions of people to feed, millions of homes to be rebuilt. There was cleanup and health issues in multiple states. Everybody looked to the government to pay for this. So, the Federal Reserve immediately lowered interest rates to near zero. The Federal government borrowed trillions of dollars, adding to the national debt. The system was flooded with money to supposedly create jobs. The printing presses were running nonstop. It was during this period that the public finally became aware of the fact that the dollar was just paper - backed by nothing. Prices skyrocketed due to excessive demand and short supplies. The value of the dollar plummeted, devastating the middle class. People spent their money as fast as they could, knowing that prices would go up the following day. This was the Great Inflation. It was inevitable, the earthquake just tipped the scales, so to speak."

"Why are you blamed for the Great Inflation?" a student asked. The instructor paused for a moment. "I'm a scapegoat" he said. "As the government grew in size, many citizens willingly abdicated their personal responsibilities. All of life's problems, over time, became the government's fault and responsibility to fix. Full employment was the government's responsibility. The high cost of medicine, gasoline, and food was the government's fault. Everyone looked to Washington to solve their problems. Politicians were elected because of economic promises made to their constituents. And, the politicians were more than happy to take on these responsibilities. After all, their job was to spend money, money created without restraint, by printing presses. The instructor paused for a moment, a long moment, creating a certain anticipation. "You could say, at the time, he paused again, "I was in charge of the printing presses." The classroom fell silent. Finally, one student out of discomfort with the lack of sound, asked "do you think you are . . . are responsible?" The instructor didn't hesitate, "Absolutely not! I gave the American people what they wanted, what they had grown to expect." "What was that?" the same student asked? "An economy created and managed by Washington . . . a false utopian economy" the instructor fired back.

A student in the back of the classroom stood up as if to signify that an important question was about to be asked. "I don't get it" he said, "we set up a new currency, the 'Amero' in 2013, which is going to be expanded to include Canada and Mexico in the future. But, the Amero isn't backed by anything either. What will prevent this from happening again - this inflation thing?"

The instructor looked out slowly, studying the faces. He calculated their ages and approximate life spans. "If you'll look at history, if you'll look at human nature, and you look at politicians, without a currency that's backed by something, something that restrains spending, then this inflationary cycle will happen again, and again, and again." He paused for a moment, and said slowly "It will happen again in your lifetime."

The instructor looked at his watch, realizing he was running out of time, flicked his wrist towards the door, signaling the students to leave. "Go home, talk to your friends about this, we'll see you tomorrow. Bring your questions, we're just getting warmed up!"


July 30, 2007

Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]

Copyright 2007 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

The first use of gold as money occurred around 700 B.C., when Lydian merchants (western Turkey) produced the first coins
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