When Money Dies, 100 Years Later

by Jeff Deist

When Money Dies, Adam Fergusson’s cautionary account of hyperinflation in Weimar-era Germany, is the book Americans desperately need to read today.

Ours is a nation willfully lacking in knowledge and understanding of money; a cynic might think this lack of apprehension is by design. Money is seldom discussed in schools, popular media, or politics. And almost a century after the stark lessons of 1923 Germany, the West is convinced it can’t happen here. In our overwhelming material abundance, aided by the natural deflationary pressures of markets, we simply have lost our ability to imagine a hyperinflationary scenario. Sure, there have been currency meltdown since the two world wars in places like Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe and Bulgaria and Argentina. Yes, Venezuela and arguably Turkey face currency crises today. But we need not worry about this, because modern central banks—especially the US Fed and the ECB—have tamed inflation through sheer technocratic expertise and a willingness to use extraordinary monetary policy tools. Asset purchases and balance sheet expansion, ultra-low or negative interest rates, and a determination to provide as much “liquidity” as an economy needs are the new normal for central bankers. Thanks to this open embrace of centrally-planned money, former Fed Chair (and likely future Treasury Secretary) Janet Yellen assured us we need not expect another financial crisis in our lifetime.

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