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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Buck

Deflation: A Misunderstood Economic Phenomenon

Deflation is an economic term that is frequently misunderstood and often associated with negative connotations. In simple terms, deflation refers to a decrease in the overall price level of goods and services in an economy. This results in an increase in the purchasing power of money, enabling individuals to buy more with the same amount of money. While deflation has been widely considered to have detrimental consequences, there are circumstances in which it can have positive effects on the economy. In this comprehensive analysis, we will examine the different types of deflation, explore their underlying causes, and highlight the positive aspects of deflation.

explaining why Deflation is not bad
Deflation is not bad

Types of Deflation:

Deflation can be broadly classified into two categories: good deflation and bad deflation.


Good Deflation:


Good deflation, also known as benign or productive deflation, is generally regarded as a positive occurrence for an economy. This type of deflation arises from technological advancements, productivity improvements, or increases in the supply of goods due to global trade, which lead to a reduction in production costs. As businesses an produce goods and services more efficiently and at lower costs, they can pass these savings onto consumers in the form of lower prices.


The Industrial Revolution is a classic example of good deflation. Innovations in manufacturing processes, transportation, and communication led to massive improvements in productivity. These advancements allowed businesses to produce goods more efficiently and at a lower cost, which in turn translated into lower prices for consumers [1].

This form of deflation is an indicator of a healthy, growing economy.


Bad Deflation:


In contrast to good deflation, bad deflation, or malign deflation, is the type that is generally associated with negative economic consequences.. This type of deflation occurs when there is a decline in aggregate demand – that is, the total demand for goods and services in an economy – while the supply remains constant or increases [2]. This decline in demand can force businesses to lower their prices to attract customers, potentially leading to a vicious cycle of reduced profits, production cuts, job losses, and business closures.


Bad deflation can stem from various factors, such as contractionary monetary policy, a decrease in bank lending, or a sudden increase in the demand for cash by the public [3]. Additionally, a decline in consumer and business confidence due to economic, political, or social events can contribute to bad deflation.


The Positive Effects of Deflation


While bad deflation can have severe consequences for the economy, it is essential to recognize the potential benefits of good deflation:

  1. Increased Purchasing Power: Falling prices allow consumers to buy more goods and services with the same amount of money, improving their standard of living.

  2. Encouragement of Savings: Deflation incentivizes saving, as the value of money increases over time. This can lead to a more financially secure population and provide funds for future investments.

  3. Resource Allocation Efficiency: Deflation can encourage businesses to allocate resources more efficiently, as they must innovate and cut costs to remain competitive in a falling-price environment.

  4. Debt Reduction: During deflation, the overall price level of goods and services decreases, and the value of money increases. This means that the amount of debt owed by individuals, businesses, or governments becomes more expensive to repay, as the same amount of money can buy more goods and services than before. This can make it more challenging for debtors to repay their debts, as the real value of the debt increases. As a result, deflation incentivizes debt reduction by making it more expensive for debtors to borrow money. For instance, individuals may reduce their spending, save more, or pay off their debts faster, while businesses and governments may reduce their borrowing or focus on reducing their budget deficits.

"Deflation resulting from increased productivity and technological advancements should not be feared but embraced, as it can lead to improvements in living standards and overall economic growth" - Philipp Bagus on the Stephan Livera Podcast

Rethinking Deflation's Reputation:


Deflation has long been associated with negative economic outcomes, but this perspective often overlooks the positive aspects of deflation, particularly good deflation driven by productivity improvements and technological advancements. By considering both types of deflation and their underlying causes, it becomes clear that deflation can have both negative and positive effects on an economy.

It is essential to recognize that the consequences of deflation depend on the context in which it occurs. Moreover, the common belief that inflation is always preferable to deflation is not always true. Inflation can also have negative effects on the economy, such as eroding the value of money, reducing purchasing power, and distorting price signals. Therefore, policymakers should carefully consider the causes and consequences of inflation and deflation before deciding on the appropriate monetary policy. But this is a topic for another blog post. Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post. If you found this engaging and would like to dive deeper into our content, please visit our blog at https://www.jbgsmining.com/blog. We frequently share insightful articles on topics such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin mining, economics and the capital markets. To stay in the loop with our latest updates and receive exclusive content, don't hesitate to subscribe to our newsletter. We're excited to welcome you into our growing community and can't wait to see you on the homepage!

Sources:


[1] Mokyr, J. (1990). The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress. Oxford University Press.


[2] Eichengreen, B. (1992). Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939. Oxford University Press.


[3] Friedman, M., & Schwartz, A. J. (1963). A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960. Princeton University Press.






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Jonathan Buck
Jonathan Buck
Apr 20, 2023

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