Sunday, January 25, 2009

When was the money easy?

Was there or wasn't there a period of "easy money" and monetary inflation fueling the boom and creating the set up for the bust?

You can choose which ever money supply measure you like, they all went up tremendously:






(I am working on a post which explains the various money supply measures. In a world of fiat money and fiduciary media, it's hard to know just what to count.)

We didn't have rampant increase in prices over the past 2 decades because in spite of the increase in money supply, we also had a tremendous increase in productivity. Without the increase in money supply, prices would have fallen even more than they did.

Carpe Diem has a great series comparing the 'cost" of several common items in terms of length of time the average worker would have to work to earn enough to purchase it. If you think about it, it should come as no surprise that we can purchase much more with our labor today than we could in 1980.

scientific calculators 12.5 hours i 1981; 33 minutes today
19-inch portable TV 71.3 hours in 1981; 9.3 hours today
microwaves 63.2 hours in 1981; 6.5 hours today
DVD player 187.3 hours in 1981; 3.8 hours today

Why? Increased productivity--which results from resources being used more efficiently, perhaps through innovation in business practices, or through new technology, or economies of scale.

So while the dot-coms early in this decade and housing prices more recently rose in distorted-investment bubble form, the bulk of the economy was busy increasing its productivity. Digital cameras and HD TV. iPods and iPhones and all the permutations of cell phones/PDAs. Graphing calculators. Hand-held GPS devices. Netflix. eBooks. What other "miracles" of our economy can you think of?

Addendum:
This page has a list of the cost of other items in terms of time worked to purchase. (The rest of the page has some facts and analysis worth reading on a few other commonly held economic myths.)
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2 comments:

Burgess Laughlin said...

This is an intriguing article. In various sites I see wide differences in definitions of "xflation," whether "in" or "de." Thank you for adding to my knowledge--as you add to yours.

P. S. The article deserves a title. My Google Reader lists it as "title unknown."

Beth said...

This post has no title because it was not supposed to be published yet!! I thought I had saved it as a draft and was planning to work on it more this morning. Oops. Now I better finish it.