III. The Demise of the Dollar
The collapsing dollar will dramatically accelerate U.S. inflation and will pressure short-term and long-term interest rates much higher. At this point, the Fed will find itself between two equally disastrous options—deflation or hyperinflation. The first option, deflation, known in the international finance literature as the “classical medicine”, requires stopping the monetary expansion and raising interest rates, thus inducing a major economic depression, a collapse in real estate prices, and an implosion in bond, stock, and derivative markets, most likely precipitating a total financial collapse. The alternative option is to take the easy way out by inflating, whereby the Fed pegs the long-bond yield, raises the Helicopters and drowns the financial system in liquidity, bailing out numerous LTCMs and hyperinflating the economy.
The Austrian theory of money, credit, and the business cycle teaches us that ultimately there is no in-between the mythological Scylla and Charybdis scenario—between deflation and hyperinflation. Sooner or later, as pressure on the dollar rises and inflation rears its ugly head, the monetary system must swing one way or the other, forcing the Fed to make its choice. There is no doubt that the newly-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, an renowned scholar of the Great Depression and an adept helicopter pilot, will choose the latter course of action—hyperinflation. Bernanke has learnt well the lessons of the Great Depression and the destructiveness of deflations. He has also learnt well from the Maestro the panacea of every financial problem—to inflate his way out, come hell or high water. He has even devised ingenious unconventional ways around the deflationary liquidity trap and teaches the Japanese how to apply them. To avoid deflation, he has publicly stated that he will accelerate the printing presses and “drop money from helicopters”. If necessary, he will monetize everything in sight. He will ultimately destroy the American currency in Hyperinflation.
Hyperinflations, however, do not happen in an instant. It usually takes years before the final collapse. The Weimar hyperinflation began around 1920 and ended in 1923 with the total destruction of the currency. Similar was the fate of some post-communist countries: it took Russia and Bulgaria 7-8 years to hyperinflate their currencies before they ultimately destroyed them.
However, because the dollar is the reserve currency of the world, hyperinflating the dollar will be fundamentally different in two ways from all hyperinflations in history. On the one hand, there are tens of trillions of dollar-denominated debt and hundreds of trillions of dollar-denominated derivatives. Given that the ratio of currency to debts and derivatives is tiny, the coming hyperinflation must be necessarily of epic proportions. On the other hand, central banks around the world will fight tooth and nail to support the dollar, so that world financial system does not collapse and that their reserves do not evaporate into the nothingness. Many central banks will choose willy-nilly to support the dollar by inflating their own currencies. Thus, these two powerful forces will drive the dollar in opposite directions. Its inevitable demise may be swift and sudden, or it may be protracted and painful.
Whatever the speed of hyperinflation, ordinary Americans will have few available options to protect themselves—during crises, peoples’ first instinct is to resort to more “stable” fiat currencies of neighboring countries, like the Canadian Dollar and the Mexican Peso, but their availability will prove limited and complicated as people will most likely have to cope with governmentally-imposed capital controls. Next, people instinctively convert hyperinflating currencies to hard assets like land and real estate, but sellers refuse to accept the hyperinflating currency and quickly disappear from the market. Having run out of meaningful options to protect themselves, ordinary people will have little choice, but to convert their dollars to hard currencies like gold and silver, thus driving their prices much higher. On the other hand, central banks have no other options but gold. First, in times of crises, central banks fear the risk inherent in all fiat currencies. Moreover, not even the largest fiat currencies will accommodate their need to convert their reserves. Also, it is not practical for central banks to hold real estate and land. Thus, central banks will have no alternative, but to scramble to convert their reserves to the only hard currency known to man—gold. Historically, in times of crises, gold has always been the ultimate safe haven. When people and central banks flee en masse to gold, its value has always skyrocketed. This time, it will be no different. Source
© 2006 Krassimir Petrov, Ph.D.
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