Home | Mises Library | What You Should Know About Inflation

What You Should Know About Inflation

  • What You Should Know About Inflation by Henry Hazlitt
July 1, 1964

Tags Money and BanksMoney and Banking

The book's title—What You Should Know About Inflation—only hints at the extent of the issues that Hazlitt addresses. He presents the Austrian theory of money in the clearest possible terms, and contrasts it with the fallacies of government management. He takes on not only the Keynesians but also the monetarists, as well as anyone who believes that government debt accumulation and manipulation of interest rates are harmless.

So this book is about far more than inflation. He touches on a wide variety of macroeconomic topics, any area of economic policy that is related to the monetary regime, including budget and trade issues, as well has the economic history of inflation.

Neither does he neglect the moral cost of inflation:

It is not merely that inflation breeds dishonesty in a nation. Inflation is itself a dishonest act on the part of government, and sets the example for private citizens. When modern governments inflate by increasing the paper-money supply, directly or indirectly, they do in principle what kings once did when they clipped coins. Diluting the money supply with paper is the moral equivalent of diluting the milk supply with water. Notwithstanding all the pious pretenses of governments that inflation is some evil visitation from without, inflation is practically always the result of deliberate governmental policy.

Particularly interesting is the final section of the book in which Hazlitt critiques various proposals for monetary reform and then presents his view.

What is Hazlitt's own idea for monetary reform? He wants competitive monies, which he believes will be based in precious metal. He doesn't demand that governments get out of the monetary business altogether but merely that government permit everyone to choose to use any money and make any form of contract.

Hazlitt lays out a scenario that he believes will lead to a 100 percent gold standard rooted in private coinage. In effect, he argues that private markets can do for money what private services have done to a whole host of government ones: outcompete and displace them.

It is a challenging thesis, particularly because it doesn't depend on any reform other than freeing the market.

Follow Mises Institute


NY: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1960, 1965.