Daniel Kuehn observes a weakness in the “inflation is theft” argument and makes a good point in the process. His comment is in response to a line in a recent article in the Atlantic, “The Villain:” “President Grover Cleveland, a warrior against inflation (in his day, brought about by cheap silver), rightly likened a debasement of the currency to theft.”
Daniel responds, “Nobody has property rights associated with a stable value of money.”
Exactly. Inflation ought to be judged based on its consequences. The Atlantic article suggests that there are positive consequences which may justify what the author perceives as “theft” — employment (although, only during periods of recession). I disagree, but judging the (de)merits of inflation is not the objective of this post.
Austrians know that stabilizing the value of money is impossible. Targeting a price level does not accomplish a stable exchange value of money. The value of money is always in terms of other economic goods, and the value of money will constantly be changing: this is a function of changing preferences, expectations, and plans/actions. As long our economy is a money one characterized by the pricing process, then the value of money will always be shifting.
If government-induced inflation is theft, then it is theft when someone affects prices in such a way that it reduces your purchasing power with regards to the relevant good.
The moral argument against inflation is a bad one. Stick with the consequentialist one.