Recently I started buying bitcoins and I’ve heard a lot of discusses inflation and deflation however, not lots of people actually know and consider what inflation and deflation are. But let’s start with inflation.
We always needed ways to trade value and probably the most practical way to do it is to link it with money. In the past it worked quite well because the money that has been issued was linked to gold. So every central bank needed enough gold to cover back all the money it issued. However, in past times century this changed and gold is not what is giving value to money but promises. Since you can guess it’s very easy to abuse to such power and certainly the major central banks are not renouncing to do so. Because of this they are printing money, so basically they’re “creating wealth” out of thin air without really having it. This technique not merely exposes us to risks of economic collapse but it results also with the de-valuation of money. Therefore, because money will probably be worth less, whoever is selling something must increase the price of goods to reflect their real value, that is called inflation. But what’s behind the money printing? Why are central banks doing so? Well the answer they might offer you is that by de-valuing their currency they are helping the exports.
In fairness, in our global economy this is true. However, that is not the only reason. By issuing fresh money we are able to afford to cover back the debts we had, basically we make new debts to pay the old ones. But coincapcentral is not only it, by de-valuing our currencies we have been de-facto de-valuing our debts. That’s why our countries love inflation. In inflationary environments it’s better to grow because debts are cheap. But which are the consequences of all this? It’s hard to store wealth. If you keep the money (you worked hard to obtain) in your money you are actually losing wealth because your money is de-valuing pretty quickly.
Because each central bank comes with an inflation target at around 2% we are able to well say that keeping money costs most of us at least 2% per year. This discourages savers and spur consumes. This is how our economies are working, predicated on inflation and debts.
What about deflation? Well this is exactly the opposite of inflation in fact it is the biggest nightmare for the central banks, let’s understand why. Basically, we’ve deflation when overall the prices of goods fall. This would be caused by a rise of value of money. For starters, it would hurt spending as consumers will undoubtedly be incentivised to save lots of money because their value increase overtime. Alternatively merchants will be under constant pressure. They’ll need to sell their goods quick otherwise they’ll lose money because the price they will charge because of their services will drop over time. But if there is something we learned in these years is that central banks and governments do not care much about consumers or merchants, what they care the most is DEBT!!. In a deflationary environment debt will become a real burden as it will only get bigger as time passes. Because our economies are based on debt you can imagine exactly what will be the consequences of deflation.
So to conclude, inflation is growth friendly but is based on debt. Which means future generations can pay our debts. Deflation on the other hand makes growth harder but it implies that future generations won’t have much debt to pay (in such context it could be possible to afford slow growth).
OK so how all of this fits with bitcoins?
Well, bitcoins are designed to be an alternative for money also to be both a store of value and a mean for trading goods. They’re limited in number and we’ll never have a lot more than 21 million bitcoins around. Therefore they are designed to be deflationary. We now have all seen what the consequences of deflation are. However, in a bitcoin-based future it could still be possible for businesses to thrive. The way to go will be to switch from a debt-based economy to a share-based economy. In fact, because contracting debts in bitcoins would be very expensive business can still have the capital they need by issuing shares of these company. This could be an interesting alternative as it will offer many investment opportunities and the wealth generated will undoubtedly be distributed more evenly among people. However, just for clarity, I must say that the main costs of borrowing capital will undoubtedly be reduced under bitcoins as the fees would be extremely low and there won’t be intermediaries between transactions (banks rip people off, both borrowers and lenders). This might buffer a few of the negative sides of deflation. Nevertheless, bitcoins will face many problems unfortunately, as governments still need fiat money to cover back the huge debts that we inherited from the past generations.