Hyperinflation: history of runaway inflation

The latest data provided by the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that in July, prices rose by 10.8% year-on-year. A rate of inflation not seen since 1984. But what would happen if prices continued to rise rapidly and uncontrollably? Joan Benedicto, 11Onze agent, explains what is hyperinflation and details some historical examples.

 

Before understanding what hyperinflation is, we need to be clear about what inflation is, as Benedicto explains, “inflation is defined as the generalised and sustained increase in the prices of goods and services in a country, over a given period of time”. However, we can speak of hyperinflation when there is “an uncontrolled, excessively high rise in prices of at least 1,000%”.

The rapid rise in prices, together with the loss of the real value of the currency, leads to a large reduction in the monetary wealth of the population. As the 11Onze agent explains, “if I buy a loaf of bread, and in my country there is 1,000% inflation, this loaf of bread, after a year, will cost €11 instead of €1”.

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that in real cases of hyperinflation throughout history, price rises have been much more disproportionate than in the previous example. Likewise, the social and economic consequences of these hyperinflations are still having a major impact on the world economy.

Hyperinflations throughout history

The most paradigmatic recent case of hyperinflation is possibly that of Venezuela, which in 2018 “went on to have an inflation rate of approximately 130,000%“, notes Benedicto. Although its economy has shown significant recovery, with “inflation below 700% in 2021”, and the end of the inflationary spiral in 2022, the effect of this prolonged crisis is reflected in the daily reality of Venezuelans, who see how a significant part of the population continues to suffer the risk of extreme poverty and food insecurity.

Another case is that of 1923 in the Weimar Republic, today’s Germany. After the First World War, the country was in dire economic straits and had no gold reserves to meet the payments of the Treaty of Versailles. The mark was devalued and, as 11Onze’s agent explains, “five years after the war, inflation reached 665 million per cent”.

We cannot conclude this brief compilation of hyperinflations throughout history without mentioning the Hungarian hyperinflation of 1946. After the devastation of the Second World War, the economy was so badly damaged that prices doubled every day and, as Joan Benedicto points out, “hyperinflation peaked at 41.9 trillion per cent, without doubt, the worst case of hyperinflation ever known”.

 

11Onze is the community fintech of Catalonia. Open an account by downloading the super app El Canut for Android or iOS and join the revolution!

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  1. Francesc Estafanell PujolFrancesc Estafanell Pujol says:
    Francesc

    Article duríssim, que malauradament és encertat. Caldrà apretar-se el cinturó i més d’un s’escanyarà

  2. Cesc RibaCesc Riba says:
    Cesc

    Gràcies per l’explicació. Quines mesures caldria prendre per aturar-la

    • Joan BenedictoJoan Benedicto says:
      Joan

      Hola, Cesc! Les mesures que caldrien aplicar són totes aquelles que facin que l’economia d’un país funcioni amb certa normalitat. Com que les hiperinflacions poden aparèixer per diferents causes, no hi ha una sèrie de mesures concretes, però podem posar algun exemple.
      En el cas d’un país que acaba de sortir d’una guerra, hi ha una gran quantitat d’infraestructures que han estat destruïdes, com camps de conreu, fàbriques, vies de comunicació… que servien generar productes, menjar i donar feina a molta gent. Si falten aquestes infraestructures en gran mesura com passa a les postguerres, l’economia es frena enormement, hi ha una gran escassetat de béns i per tant, aquests pugen de preu de manera desorbitada. En general, la reconstrucció del país seria una mesura que, en aquest escenari d’hiperinflació en concret, s’hauria d’aplicar amb urgència, però naturalment hi ha altres factors a tenir en compte. Espero haver-te respost!

      7 days ago
  3. Manuel Bullich BuenoManuel Bullich Bueno says:
    Manel

    Uffff les xifres maregen, el futur imminent no pinta gens bé.

    • Càrol RafalesCàrol Rafales says:
      Càrol

      Efectivament, Manel. El futur més immediat no pinta gens bé 🙁

      1 week ago
  4. Carles MarsalCarles Marsal says:
    Carles

    Mare de déu. 😬

    • Laura Bunyol BartrinaLaura Bunyol Bartrina says:
      Laura

      Té tela Carles. Sempre s’aprèn alguna cosa nova.

      1 week ago
  5. Mercè ComasMercè Comas says:
    Mercè

    Gairebé és inimaginable.
    Les xifres maregen. La pregunta és: com s’arriba a una situació d’hiperinflació com la d’Hongria, i què significa a la pràctica, al dia a dia

    • Laura Bunyol BartrinaLaura Bunyol Bartrina says:
      Laura

      Jo diria que en casos com aquests de tanta inestabilitat simplement tot deixa de tenir sentit, les hores de feina, el preu de productes com la gasolina o altres despeses de la llar que considerem imprescindibles útils i necessaris passen a ser simplement supèrflues. Viu el que té menjar i llenya per escalfar-se. El pillatge i les màfies s’apoderen de tot.

      1 week ago

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