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Latest Issue

Inflation Reaches Unicorns

June 24, 2022

“Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government—in pursuit of good intentions—tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost comes in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

—Milton Friedman

“Don’t give me a low rate. Give me a true rate, and then I shall know how to keep my house in order.”

Hjalmar Schacht, Reichsbank president, 1927

One reason today’s inflation has us all so concerned is we went a long time without any—or at least not much. That wasn’t normal. In the 1990s, a 3% annual Consumer Price Index reading was common and almost unremarkable. CPI approached 5% in 2005 and was briefly over 5% in 2008. But from 2012 until last year, 3% was a hard ceiling—to the point where Federal Reserve officials worried more about generating inflation than preventing it.

At the same time, many households faced constantly rising bills for healthcare, housing, and other essentials. The benchmarks certainly didn’t reflect common experience. But inflation was, if not actually low, at least lower than in the past. This is one reason the prospect of extended 5%, 8%, or higher inflation feels so dreadful. We’ve forgotten what it was like.

Post-2008 monetary policy unleashed deflationary...

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