The recent rise in price pressures around the world has reignited interest in understanding how inflation transmits to the real economy. Economists have long recognized that unexpected surges of inflation can redistribute wealth from creditors to debtors when debt contracts are written in nominal terms (see, for example, Fisher 1933). If debtors are financially constrained, this redistribution can affect real economic activity by relaxing financing constraints. This mechanism, which we call the debt-inflation channel, is well understood theoretically (for example, Gomes, Jermann, and Schmid 2016), but there is limited empirical evidence to substantiate it. In this post, we discuss new insights from one of the key events in monetary history: the Great German Inflation of 1919-23. Because this case of inflation was both surprising and extremely high, Germany’s experience helps shed light on how high inflation impacts firms’ economic activity through the erosion of their nominal debt burdens. These insights are based on a recently released research paper.
Lauren DiCioccio, a mixed media artist, sews (in the sense of embroiders) money.
In the late 1700s, France ran a persistent deficit and by the late 1780s struggled with how to balance the budget and pay down the debt.