Yanis Varoufakis Bitcoin
The responses of many to my post on Bitcoin reveal a powerful tendency to underestimate the ill-effects of deflation on a social economy. This tendency to underestimate deflation’s deleterious impact matters beyond debates on Bitcoin per se. For example, in Europe the incapacity of the European Central Bank (ECB) to act in the face of deflationary forces has revealed the same type of misunderstanding, as many commentators fail to recognise that deflation is a very serious threat and that the ECB’s lack of weapons against it constitutes a major weakness. In this post I return to the problem of deflation in a Gold Standard-like monetary system (e.g. Bitcoin or, indeed, the Eurozone itself) but conclude that, almost paradoxically, the technology of Bitcoin, if suitably adapted, can be employed profitably in the Eurozone as a weapon against deflation and a means of providing much needed leeway to fiscally stressed Eurozone member-states.
Is deflation really a problem?
In a recent debate, I was confronted with the argument that deflation is a godsend. “Poorer people crave lower prices”, I was told, “and they cannot understand why ‘elitists’, like yourself, oppose them”. Of course people, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, prefer lower to higher prices other things being equal. But under the heavy shadow of deflation other things are not equal . Deflation is indiscriminatory. Once it sets it, all prices subside, including the price for labour. In fact, wages tend to fall faster than prices of other goods during deflationary times, leaving the weak poorer. Worse still, deflation reduces investment which, in turn, raises unemployment.