In response to Economist Fired for Expressing Opinions on Max Keiser Show; Errors in Observation where I stated "The Fed Cannot Realistically Cause Hyperinflation" I received a couple of emails worth reviewing.
Reader Philip writes ...
I do not understand how you could say that the Fed cannot cause hyperinflation. The government has a huge debt. The debt is manageable at super low rates. But, if rates rise due to some inflation or even just caution from abroad then the government starts paying a very large sum in interest. That takes away from its obligations even more than the current deficit amount. Either the Fed has to step in and monetize the debt by printing more and more money spiraling out of control.Definition of Terms
In every modern case of hyperinflation the decision to inflate was a political one, not an economic one. In almost every case hyperinflation followed a war or a coup or some massive political change such as the end of the Soviet empire or the rise of a dictator or a populist-socialist takeover, and other political unrest.
In the 20th Century there were quite a number of hyperinflationary events. I used the Wikipedia list of modern hyperinflations (Since WWI) and researched the political circumstances of each country. The circumstances can be put into three rough categories: post-war disruption, post-Soviet collapse, and socialist-populist regimes.
For example we all know what happened in Germany during after WWI when politicians, mostly socialists, blamed all their problems on reparations and continued to print so much money that it resulted in the famous cash-in-a-wheelbarrow photos. They literally had no clue what they were doing.
The post-Soviet empire collapse is easier to understand as former communist/socialist regimes fought for power and struggled with economic policy. Many of these countries have reformed or were forced to reform their monetary and fiscal policies.
Many of the socialist-Marxist regimes were Latin American populist governments who employed “revolutionary” anti-capitalist nostrums for economic policy. Chile (Allende) and Argentina are good examples. Argentina has had years of high inflation to hyperinflation since 1980. In Africa most countries were a mixture of strongmen with socialist-Marxist policies. I am not suggesting that these were pure socialist governments, but rather the typical situation where the government seizes or controls large parts of industry and issues regulations controlling much economic activity.
These hyperinflations all had one common denominator: during a period of instability, spending was used as a political tool and it got out of hand. I understand that the circumstances of each country were different and that it is perhaps unfair to say, lump Israel in with Argentina. But each country faced political factors that created instability or a national crisis; the government spent heavily to gain popular support, and resorted to the printing presses to pay for their spending.
Zimbabwe vs. Weimar
In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe government initiated a "land reform" program intended to correct the inequitable land distribution created by colonial rule. Ultimately, Mugabe's attempt to to bail out the poor at the expense of the wealthy is what triggered capital flight and loss of faith of the currency.
His reforms not only caused a flight of capital and human capital (the wealthy), they also led to sanctions by the US and Europe. In response, Mugabe turned on the printing presses but the loss of faith in the currency had already occurred.
In Weimar Germany, printing for war reparations kicked off hyperinflation. Wikipedia provides a good accounting in Inflation in the Weimar Republic.
It is certainly not impossible for there to be a complete loss of faith in the US dollar, however there odds are extremely remote.
Can The Fed Cause Hyperinflation?
I do not think the Fed itself can cause hyperinflation and more importantly I am sure they would not if they could. The reason is "Hyperinflation Would End The Game"
Hyperinflation Model is Complete Silliness
To understand how powerless the Fed is, one needs to understand the difference between credit and money, how much the former dwarfs the latter, and what the Fed's role is in getting banks to lend.