German Data

At first glance, the German data seem to confirm the idea that large inflation rates are driven by large money growth rates. On closer examination, though, we notice that the inflation rates were greater than the growth rate of the money supply. Yet we said earlier that inflation rate = growth rate of money supply + growth rate of velocity − growth rate of output. It follows that the velocity of money must have been increasing or output must have been decreasing. It is plausible, indeed likely, that the velocity of money will increase during a period of very high inflation. If you know that the cash in your pocket will lose its value from one hour to the next, then you want to get rid of it quickly. During the German hyperinflation, anyone with cash wanted to exchange it as quickly as possible for goods and services. Thus money changed hands more and more rapidly: in other words, the velocity of money increased. Money had ceased to perform one of its key functions. It was no longer a store of value. Even if people were still using money as a medium of exchange, they could no longer rely on money to keep its value. A monetary system is a fragile institution: its success depends on everyone believing in it. [6] People are willing to accept money because they think that others will, in turn, be willing to accept it from them. During a hyperinflation, this system breaks down. People are reluctant to accept money because they know that others will not want to accept it from them. Rapid inflation is also disruptive to the general functioning of the economy. People have to devote much more time and energy to managing their cash. People insist on being paid more frequently and abandon work to shop as soon as they are paid. Furthermore, as discussed later, inflation acts as a tax on work. So higher inflation means a higher tax and thus a reduction in employment and output. Overall, output does tend to decrease during hyperinflation, increasing the inflation rate still further.

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