'Inflation ... disastrous effects.' - By Murray N. Rothbard

Posted by ProjectC 
<blockquote>"Inflation, then, confers no general social benefit; instead, it redistributes the wealth in favor of the first-comers and at the expense of the laggards in the race. And inflation is, in effect, a race—to see who can get the new money earliest. The latecomers—the ones stuck with the loss—are often called the “fixed income groups.” Ministers, teachers, people on salaries, lag notoriously behind other groups in acquiring the new money. Particular sufferers will be those depending on fixed money contracts—contracts made in the days before the inflationary rise in prices. Life insurance beneficiaries and annuitants, retired persons living off pensions, landlords with long term leases, bondholders and other creditors, those holding cash, all will bear the brunt of the inflation. They will be the ones who are “taxed.”2

Inflation has other disastrous effects. It distorts that keystone of our economy: business calculation. Since prices do not all change uniformly and at the same speed, it becomes very difficult for business to separate the lasting from the transitional, and gauge truly the demands of consumers or the cost of their operations. For example, accounting practice enters the “cost” of an asset at the amount the business has paid for it. But if inflation intervenes, the cost of replacing the asset when it wears out will be far greater than that recorded on the books. As a result, business accounting will seriously overstate their profits during inflation—and may even consume capital while presumably increasing their investments.3 Similarly, stockholders and real estate olders will acquire capital gains during an inflation that are not really “gains” at all. But they may spend part of these gains without realizing that they are thereby consuming their original capital.

By creating illusory profits and distorting economic calculation, inflation will suspend the free market’s penalizing of inefficient, and rewarding of efficient, firms. Almost all firms will seemingly prosper. The general atmosphere of a “sellers’ market” will lead to a decline in the quality of goods and of service to consumers, since consumers often resist price increases less when they occur in the form of downgrading of quality.4 The quality of work will decline in an inflation for a more subtle reason: people become enamored of “get-rich-quick” schemes, seemingly within their grasp in an era of ever-rising prices, and often scorn sober effort. Inflation also penalizes thrift and encourages debt, for any sum of money loaned will be repaid in dollars of lower purchasing power than when originally received. The incentive, then, is to borrow and repay later rather than save and lend. Inflation, therefore, lowers the general standard of living in the very course of creating a tinsel atmosphere of “prosperity.”
- Murray N. Rothbard, What Has Government Done to Our Money, page 53, 54, 55

2 It has become fashionable to scoff at the concern displayed by “conservatives”
for the “widows and orphans” hurt by inflation. And yet this is precisely
one of the chief problems that must be faced. Is it really “progressive”
to rob widows and orphans and to use the proceeds to subsidize farmers
and armament workers?

3 This error will be greatest in those firms with the oldest equipment, and
in the most heavily capitalized industries. An undue number of firms,
therefore, will pour into these industries during an inflation. For further
discussion of this accounting-cost error, see W.T. Baxter, “The Accountant’s
Contribution to the Trade Cycle,” Economica (May 1955): 99–112.</blockquote>