Government bailouts and Inflation

Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman

No matter how you calculate the economic repercussions of the government bailouts. It will to some degree directly correlate to monetary inflation. I don’t believe this country fully understands how bad and destructive inflation is.

I recently watched a ten episode documentary by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman in 1980 called “Free To Choose”. I highly recommend it. Here are a couple quotes I liked regarding inflation.

Inflation is just like alcoholism. In both cases when you start drinking or when you start printing too much money, the good effects come first. The bad effects only come later. That’s why in both cases there is a strong temptation to overdo it. To drink too much and to print too much money. When it comes to the cure, it’s the other way around. When you stop drinking or when you stop printing money, the bad effects come first and the good effects only come later. That’s why it’s so hard to persist with the cure. In the United States, four times in the 20 years after 1957, we undertook the cure. But each time we lacked the will to continue. As a result, we had all the bad effects and none of the good effects. Japan on the other hand, by sticking to a policy of slowing down the printing presses for five years, was by 1978 able to reap all the benefits, low inflation and a recovering economy. But there is nothing special about Japan. Every country that has had the courage to persist in a policy of slow monetary growth has been able to cure inflation and at the same time achieve a healthy economy.

And another…

There is nothing which will destroy a society so thoroughly and so fully as letting inflation run riot. He must come to recognize that he doesn’t have any good choices. That there are no easy answers. That once you get in this situation where the economy is sick of this insidious disease, there’s gonna be no miracle drug which will enable them to be well tomorrow. That the only choices he has, do I go through a tough period for four or five years of relatively high unemployment, relatively low growth or do I try to push it off by taking some more of the hair of the dog that bit me and get around it now at the cost of still higher unemployment, as Clarence Brown said, later on. The only choice this country faces, is whether we have temporary unemployment for a short period, as a side effect of curling inflation or whether we go into a period of still higher unemployment later on and have it to do all over again. That’s the only choice we face. And when the public at large recognizes that, they will then elect people to Congress, and a President to office who is committed to less government spending and to less government printing of money and until that happens we will not cure inflation.”

Bonus: As you hear all these large numbers talked about in the news, here is something to help you keep them into perspective:

One million seconds equates to about 11 DAYS
One billion seconds equates to about 31 YEARS
One trillion seconds equates to about 317 CENTUREIS