Monday, February 1, 2010

monetary inflation and social decline

I've been thinking recently about the more subtle roles the state plays in the decline of society. One of these is the effect of monetary inflation on the time preference of market participants at the consumer level and how it manifests in a culture.

Before I get into how monetary inflation affects the development of a culture, it's important to define a couple of concepts:

Monetary inflation refers to the increase in the supply of currency. All things being equal, the inevitable result of an increase in the currency supply is a rise in prices, called "price inflation". Price inflation is what most people envision when they hear of inflation in the general sense, though the technical, economic definition of "inflation" is a rise in the supply of currency.

Time preference is the economic concept referring to how the individual values present and future goods. In simpler terms, it is the extent to which individuals value consumption now at the expense of consumption later as opposed to consumption later at the expense of consumption now. Those with higher time preference favor consumption now rather than later, placing a higher value on present goods than on future goods. The opposite is true of those with a lower time preference, preferring to save now in order to consume later.

In a free market, over the long term, production of goods and services increases the value of money over time, building in automatic incentives that encourage individuals to save money, thereby building up the capital that will become future investment for production.

In a society where the currency is constantly and artificially inflated and, consequently, prices continue to rise as the value of the currency decreases, the incentives for saving are decreased. The incentive to move out of holding currency is great considering that there is a negative return. Conversely, the incentive to spend money (consume) now is increased as prices rise and are anticipated to continue rising. At a level of affluence where market participants possess stored wealth, such a scenario creates asset bubbles, as wealth seeks a higher yield in investments that may not be sustainable under current market conditions. At the level where stored wealth is more shallow, where most of society resides, consumerism becomes stronger as the incentive to save is diminished.

As this phenomenon prevails, individuals have a diminished incentive to forgo present consumption in favor of future consumption. This may manifest itself broadly in a culture, over time, in lower levels of self-control, decreasing industriousness and responsibility in favor of leisure and instant gratification. We may see this in various areas in an affected society, resulting in more single parent households as the discipline needed to keep families together is diminished, also, the sexual discipline needed to start families from a solid foundation may suffer in a culture dominated by high time preferences. Broad capital investment also suffers as savings, from which capital expenditure is derived, are depleted through spending on non-productive items in the consumer sector. This lack of capital funding undermines the productivity and economic progress of societies. These and other factors ultimately result in the decline of a civilization in varying degrees.

In reality, such phenomena result from inflation brought about by central banks in a nearly constant fashion as governments continually seek to transfer wealth from society to the politically connected. This suits the purpose of government as such wealth transfer is poorly understood by its victims (a likely outcome of state education) and also results, as described above, in a populace without the will, knowledge or incentive to resist such wealth transfer.

Government isn't what it is by chance and it is the most brilliant and successful of all criminal enterprises. It is responsible, in many ways, for the decline of civilizations, the above illustration is simply one of those. A consequence of the artificial increasing of time preference in a general population may be poisonous for the future of said society in the aftermath of inevitable governmental decline, by leaving in its wake a helpless and childlike populace that is vulnerable to the continuation of such political machinations to poach the remains of wealth.

This may be one of the reasons that states are able to persist despite their inherent instability and their parasitic and self-destructive natures. They create for themselves the society that they desire, thereby ensuring, like a virus, their own perpetuation, changing the behavior of the host to suit the needs of the disease, thereby ensuring that a confined population is incapable of non-statist revolution.

The subject of monetary inflation is rarely applied to sociological or cultural phenomenon in the aggregate, though it may very well be an agent of veiled state control over subject populations by decreasing the overall individual self-control in a society by introducing a fiat currency with a persistently negative return over very long time periods.

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