The Market Is a Hologram Masking Deflation
Since the global financial crisis started in earnest in 2008, there has been a debate raging in economic circles. Is the economy experiencing inflation or deflation?
The first consideration in solving this riddle is to agree on terms. Rising or falling prices at your local grocery store is ‘price inflation’ but not inflation as defined in terms of an expanding money supply.* In other words, retail prices moving up and down are the secondary effects of an expanding or contracting money supply; the primary component in understanding the ‘flations.’
Getting back to what happened in 2008, when the markets hit the skids, the government reacted by increasing the money supply; just as they did after the 1987 crash, the Long Term Capital Management crisis, the dot-com crash, 9/11, and the sub-prime crash. But unlike any of those instances, the money supply kept shrinking and prices kept deflating (notwithstanding the price of a few items).
At first it looked like the liquidity stimulus was going to revive the economy and there was an anemic bounce in 2009, but that death rattle has now expired and the primary trend of falling real estate prices, falling wages, and deteriorating bank balance sheets has reasserted itself and threatens to take the economy down again dramatically (read: depression). The question of a ‘double dip’ is misleading. The economy started down a depressionary slide in 2008 and hasn’t looked back.
Will we ever see inflation?