There are many critics of the Fed’s recent money supply expansion, especially since 2008, whose chief criticism is that it will result in consumer price inflation. While proponents of the Austrian School agree that high consumer price inflation is one possible result of an expansionary monetary policy, we neither hold it as necessary nor as the worst consequence of money creation.
For the Austrian, who defines inflation as an expansion of the money supply, rising consumer prices only take place to the extent that this new money drives demand for more consumer goods. But as Mises pointed out, new money does not enter the economy neutrally; that is, it enters in specific ways and in accordance with specific mechanisms. This affects where the rising prices will show up first. And if it takes decades for the newly created money to reach consumers, then it will take decades for the consumer prices to rise.
Secondly, rising consumer prices are by no means the primary evil of monetary expansion. The primary evil of monetary expansion under our money and banking system is the harm done to the capital structure. The artificial suppression of interest rates that results from the expansion of the money supply has an eroding effect on the economy’s capital stock. When interest rates are suppressed below what they would have been without the monetary expansion, investments in unprofitable projects suddenly appear to be profitable. This is the basis for the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle. Capital is allocated to projects that the economy cannot in actuality support and is therefore squandered.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Oct 31, 2017.