Inflation: of all the dangers to the free market economy, historically and theoretically, the greatest is this one, yet it is one of those subjects that remain wrapped in mystery for the average citizen. This elusive concept must be understood if we are to return to the free market, for without a thorough comprehension of inflation’s mechanism and its dangers, we will continue to enslave ourselves to a principle of theft and destruction.
This essay is an attempt to compare the process of inflation to a more commonly recognized physiological phenomenon, that of drug addiction. The similarities between the two are remarkable, physically and psychologically. Nevertheless, it must be stressed from the outset that any analogy is never a precise scientific explanation. No analogy can claim to be so rigorously exact as to rival the accuracy of the original concept to which it is supposed to be analogous. It is, however, an excellent teaching device, and while it is no substitute for carefully reasoned economic analysis, it is still a surprisingly useful supplement, which can aid an individual in grasping the implications of the economic argument.
Before beginning the comparison, it is mandatory that a definition of inflation be presented, one which can serve as a working basis for the development of the analogy.
One workable definition has been offered by Murray N. Rothbard, who is perhaps the most reliable expert on monetary theory: inflation is “any increase in the economy’s supply of money, not consisting of an increase in the stock of the money metal.” An even better definition might be this one, adopted for the purposes of exposition in this study: “any increase in the economy’s supply of money, period.” Thus, the level of prices is not the criterion in determining whether or not inflation is present. The only relevant factor is simply whether any new money is being injected into the system, be it gold, silver, credit, or paper.
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