In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy. A chief measure of price inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index (normally the Consumer Price Index) over time.
Inflation’s effects on an economy are various and can be simultaneously positive and negative. Negative effects of inflation include a decrease in the real value of money and other monetary items over time, uncertainty over future inflation may discourage investment and savings, and high inflation may lead to shortages of goods if consumers begin hoarding out of concern that prices will increase in the future. Positive effects include ensuring central banks can adjust nominal interest rates (intended to mitigate recessions), and encouraging investment in non-monetary capital projects.
Inflation and the Money Supply
We can also have inflation and deflation by changing the amount of money in the system. If the government decides to print a lot of money, then dollars will become plentiful relative to oranges, just as in our drought situation. Thus inflation is caused by the amount of dollars rising relative to the amount of oranges (goods and services), and deflation is caused by the amount of dollars falling relative to the amount of oranges. Thus, as shown by the article “Why Does Money Have Value?”, inflation is caused by a combination of four factors:
1. The supply of money goes up.
2. The supply of other goods goes down.
3. Demand for money goes down.
4. Demand for other goods goes up