(By Porter Stansberry)
- Reproduced from The Daily Crux: First published on 29 June 2010
Porter Stansberry: U.S. is headed for one of the worst inflations in history
"It could never happen here"... That's the refrain we hear from our friends and colleagues. They say it after we've gone over all of the numbers involved in the government's financial position and explained our out-of-consensus view that the U.S. is not only heading toward a period of massive inflation, but such an outcome has long since ceased to be avoidable. People respond – "Oh, that could never happen here." – in the same way they repeat a catechism.
We don't think our view is shocking or even surprising. Much like with our GM analysis (we predicted bankruptcy as early as 2005), when you simply look at the numbers, the outcome is unavoidable.
And then there's history. Not a single brand of paper money has ever lasted. Or you might say, in all of recorded human history, gold remains undefeated. We expect that trend to continue. Likewise, we can't recall any nation that ever repaid its debts (in sound money) once they'd grown to 100% of GDP. And watching our neighbors "strategically" defaulting on their mortgages in record numbers, we see no reason to expect Americans will prove to be any more honest about their government's obligations.
Since America isn't the first powerful democracy to default through inflation, it may pay for investors to be familiar with the most famous such event...
In 1915, just after World War I began, you could exchange 4.2 German marks for one U.S. dollar – and that was when the U.S. dollar was still backed by gold. As you know, Germany lost the war. Its people were literally starving by the end, thanks to the British blockade. With no alternative except starvation and annihilation, Germany accepted an armistice that demanded $12.5 billion in reparations. The debt was equal to 100% of Germany's GDP prior to the war. At the time, the exchange rate stood at 65 marks to the dollar, a devaluation of roughly 95%. Most people believe Germany's hyperinflation was caused by this war debt. Not exactly.
After the war, Germany was broke... That's true. But the mark was cheap. It seemed like a terrific investment opportunity. Most people believed Germany would find a way to finance its debts. We imagine foreign investors at the time said, "Oh, hyperinflation could never happen in Germany..." And so speculators pumped another $2 billion of additional credit into Germany. Then came trouble. Germany's main creditor (France) refused to renegotiate the terms of the armistice. And the German people lost confidence in their own government. The people didn't want to pay the debts. Assassinations began to occur, most notably the murder of Walther Rathenau – the foreign minister. Investors lost confidence in the country. They abandoned the mark.
German prices rose forty fold in 1922. The mark fell from 190 to 7,600 to the dollar. When Germany failed to make a foreign debt payment in 1923, 40,000 French and Belgian troops invaded. To appease its creditors, the German government printed more money. It issued 17 trillion marks in 1923 (compared to 1 trillion in 1922). By August 1923, a dollar was worth 620,000 marks. By early November 1923, the exchange rate hit 630 billion to one.
Could something like this happen in the U.S.? Not exactly. We doubt, for example, China will ever attempt to invade the U.S. to force debt repayment. But we think what will likely happen could easily be worse than Weimar Germany. You see, the mark wasn't the foundation of the world's economy. Today, more than 60% of all bank reserves around the world are U.S. Treasury obligations. As the U.S. continues to run massive annual deficits and as the Fed engages in "quantitative easing," the world's supply of money is growing, by large amounts. Sooner or later, people holding paper money of every variety, not just Uncle Sam's, will come to doubt its most important quality – the stability of its exchange value. The resulting massive inflation will not merely strike the U.S., but the entire world.