Inflation and the Cantillon Effect

’The inflation of money is followed by the inflation of the perception of value. This means that they tend towards indifference and eventually disintegrate altogether. What the economists call ’time preferences’, is subject to dramatic changes. The focus shifts to the ’here and now’- to hell with the future. ’

Roland Baader

Inflation is a regressive tax, i.e. the opposite of a progressive income tax. The poorer you are, the greater the burden is. The purchasing power of income decreases, which is why inflation can also be regarded as a redistribution tax. In this context, the so-called Cantillon effect is highly relevant. This effect describes the fact that newly-created money is distributed neither equally nor simultaneously among the population. This means that people handling money partially benefit from inflation and partially suffer from it. Monetary dispersion is never neutral. Market participants who receive the new money early and exchange it for goods benefit in comparison with those who get the newly-created money later. We can see a transfer of assets from late money users to early money users.

Friedrich von Hayek once pictured the cantillon effect with the process of pouring honey into a saucer. The honey dollops in the middle first and only later it spreads out to the periphery. Prices also do not rise evenly. Typically price levels are higher in regions, which directly or indirectly benefit from monetary inflation. If you happen to live in a financial center you may have noticed.

‘Inflation and credit expansion, the preferred methods of present day government open-handedness, do not add anything to the amount of resources available. They make some people more prosperous, but only to the extent that they make others poorer.‘

Ludwig von Mises

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