Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inflation as a corrosive moral agent

Words of great insight and wisdom from Theodore Dalrymple. Inflation will whittle away your savings and soul:

At the time, I gave no thought to the effects of this inflation, which tended to be discussed in purely economic terms—experts would ask, say, whether inflation was compatible with satisfactory economic growth. In a naive way, I assumed that since most people’s income tended to rise with inflation, there was nothing to worry about. I did not suffer personally because of it, nor did most of the people I knew. If a product once cost y and now cost 10y, what did it matter, so long as your income had gone up by ten times, too? Since people seemed better off, at least measured by what they could consume, one could even assume that incomes had risen faster than inflation.

Yet this was a crude way of looking at things, as my father’s fate should have instructed me. He sold his business in the sixties, at the end of the period of price stability that had reigned throughout his life, for what then seemed a large amount of money. He was a man who, for both temperamental and ideological reasons, held a deep contempt for financial speculation and wheeling and dealing, with the result that he did nothing as inflation inexorably eroded his savings. He grew poorer and poorer through the remaining 30 years of his life, and might have sunk into poverty had he not moved into a house that I owned.

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