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Some people believe that inflation is caused by an increase in the money supply when the banks print more notes engage in fractional reserve lending. Is this correct?

As I understand it, when there is more available money in the market, the price of goods will increase. But will a normal merchant acknowledge the increase of money supply and raise prices immediately? I posit that, in the short run, merchants won't increase prices in response to increased money supply.

So, why does increased money supply lead to price inflation?

Specifically, after the banks print more notes, where will the money be distributed first? Who will be the first one to have a need to rise their price? Does the enterprise borrow more money and spend more money in the market, and then the merchant increase their price when there are a lots of order?

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The banks do not print money the Mints do. The federal reserve issues that money. Price inflation happens when the cost of raw materials, the cost of production, and/or the cost of distribution increases and the producer passes the costs on to the consumer. –  user4127 Oct 18 '11 at 13:42
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During the beta, it would be helpful if down voters would leave comments. I see 3 "off topic" votes, but I don't see how this question is off topic. It may not be "graduate" level, but it is a complex question that isn't always explained in macro 101. –  mehaase Oct 18 '11 at 23:35
    
Yes, I would also want to know whythe downvotes. –  lamwaiman1988 Oct 19 '11 at 1:18
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Down votes are probably because of the factual errors within the question. Votes to close are probably because of the very basic nature of the question, which, at least for private beta, makes it off topic. –  Tal Fishman Oct 19 '11 at 1:20
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@PatrickBeardmore there has been encouragement to close marginal questions during the private beta, hence the close votes. I opted to edit the question instead. I assume it will be more relaxed once the site goes public (if it were my question, I'd much rather have close votes than downvotes). –  Jason B Oct 19 '11 at 14:07

3 Answers 3

No, it isn't generally believed that inflation is caused by individual banks printing money. Governments manage money supply through Central Banks (which may, or may not, be independent of the state).

There are a number of theories about money supply and inflation (from Monetarist, to Keynesian, and so on). The Quantity Theory of Inflation says that long-term inflation is the result of money-supply but short-term inflation is related to events/local conditions.

Short-term inflation is a symptom of economic change. It's like a cough for a doctor. It simply indicates an underlying event.

When prices go up it encourages new producers to enter the market, create new supply which will then act to lower prices. In this way inflation is managed by ensuring that information travels throughout the economy. If prices go up for specific goods, then - all things being equal - supply should go up since the increase implies increasing demand. If prices go down then this implies demand has gone down and so producers will reduce supply.

Obviously this isn't a perfect relationship. There is "stickiness" which can be caused by a whole bunch of market conditions (from banning of short-selling, to inelasticity of demand/supply).

Your question isn't about quantitative easing (which is a state-led way of increasing money-supply and which could increase inflation but is hoped to increase expenditure and investment) so I won't cover that here.

The important take-away is that inflation is an essential price signal to investors and business people so that they can assess market cycles. Without it we would end up with vast over- or under-supply and much greater economic disruption.

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I think he might have been referring to the inflation of the money supply through fractional-reserve banking, which isn't "printing money" strictly speaking, but it would have the same effects. –  David Perry Oct 18 '11 at 16:41
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@DavidPerry - The belief of a fraction of the "Occupy" group is that the banks are the ones causing prices to rise in part by printing money and charging exorbitant rates on student loans. If I didn't keep hearing it I would not believe that there are that many people who actually believe that. –  user4127 Oct 18 '11 at 19:48
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@Chad - there may or may not be merit to that argument, though they'd find analysts/economists more likely to help if they started saying "increasing the money supply through fractional-reserve banking" instead of "printing money." I'm also unsure that the argument is about the rates on student loans so much as the fact that high-availability bankruptcy-proof student loans are creating an artificially high demand for college education at the expense of the economic future of an entire generation. –  David Perry Oct 18 '11 at 20:09
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@DavidPerry - There is only merit if their belief is true. Since the government is the one printing money and defining the laws about the student loans it is based on misconception. If you look at the core problems that the majority occupiers are protesting I agree with most of it. But there is a general misconception among the a significant number of the occupiers that the banks and Wall Street traders are the ones actually implementing the policies. –  user4127 Oct 18 '11 at 20:22
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@Chad perhaps you're correct about the student loan side, but the gov't sets the limit for how much reserve banks have to keep, it is the choice of the banks themselves to inflate the money supply for personal gain. –  David Perry Oct 18 '11 at 20:25

Some people believe that inflation is caused by an increase in the money supply when the banks engage in fractional reserve lending. Is this correct?

You are referring to the Austrian school of thought. The Austrians define inflation in terms of money supply. In other words, inflation is defined as an increase in the aggregate money supply, even if prices stay the same of fall.

This is not the only definition of inflation. The mainstream defines inflation as a general increase in the prices of consumer goods.

Based on the first definition, then your supposition is correct by definition. Based on the second definition, you can make a case that money supply affects prices. But keep in mind, it's just one factor affecting prices. Furthermore, economics is resistant to experimentation, so it is difficult to establish causality.

Austrian economists tend to approach the problem of "proof" using a 2-pronged tactic: establish plausibility by explaining the mechanism, then look for historical evidence to back up that explanation.

As I understand it, when there is more available money in the market, the price of goods will increase. But will a normal merchant acknowledge the increase of money supply and raise prices immediately? I posit that, in the short run, merchants won't increase prices in response to increased money supply.

So, why does increased money supply lead to price inflation?

The simple answer, in the Austrian school of thought, is that you have more money chasing the same amount of goods. In other words, printing money doesn't actually increase the number of widgets made.

I believe the Austrian school is consistent with your supposition that prices don't increase in the short run. In other words, producers don't increase prices immediately after observing an increase in the money supply.

Specifically, after the banks print more notes, where will the money be distributed first?

The Austrian story goes as follows:

Imagine that the first borrower is a home constructor, and he is borrowing freshly "printed" money to build new homes. This constructor will need to buy materials and hire labor to build homes, and in doing so he will bid against other home constructors. The increased demand for lumber, nails, tools, carpentry, etc. will ever so slightly increase the market prices for these goods and services.

So the money goes first to the borrower, but then flows also to the people selling to the borrower, and the people selling to the sellers, etc. It has a ripple effect.

Who will be the first one to have a need to rise their price?

These producers won't need to increase their price, but they will choose to do so if the believe that demand outstrips supply. In other words if you have more orders than you can fill, then you may post higher prices because you think consumers will tolerate the higher price.

You might object that competition deters any one producer from unilaterally raising prices, but in fact if all producers are failing to keep up with demand, then you can unilaterally raise prices because other producers don't have any excess inventory to undercut you with.

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Here is one thing I can't understand. As the US gov issue more money, the value of dollar decreases, and because HKD is hooked to US dollar, the buying power of HKD decrease. So the merchants need more money to buy their goods-to-sell, which come from China mostly. So they raise the selling price and cause inflation. Not to say that US gov are pushing China gov to increase the value of RMB and make the life of merchant more difficult, though this is not about printing money. –  lamwaiman1988 Oct 19 '11 at 1:17
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@gunbuster363 you missed a step. The value of the HKD does not fall automatically. A fixed exchange rate means that the central bank takes steps to ensure that the currencies always trade at the same rate. In this case the response would probably be printing HKD to buy USD. –  suriv Oct 19 '11 at 19:17

There are several causes of inflation. One is called cost push — that is, if the price of e.g. oil goes up sharply (as it did in the 1970s), it creates inflation by making everything cost more. Another is called demand pull: if labor unions bargain for higher wages (as they did in the 1960s), their wage costs push up prices, especially after they start buying.

The kind of inflation that the banks cause is monetary inflation. That is, for every dollar of deposits, they can make $5 or $10 of loans. So even though they don't "print" money (the Fed does) it's as if they did. The result could be the kind of inflation called "too much money chasing too few goods."

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What would a bank's balance sheet look like if it made \$10 of loans based on \$1 of deposits, and where would the extra \$9 have come from? You've confused the money multiplier - a dubious metric at the best of times - with the reserve ratio - to which the money multiplier may or may not bear a relationship. –  EnergyNumbers Nov 23 '11 at 20:19
    
The money multiplier is simply the inverse of the reserve ratio, it is directly related to it. The $10 comes from deposits of their own loans. IE 1 dollar deposited....90 cents loaned....90 cents deposited...81 cents loaned..granted this is a simplified view but this is what happens. –  Pablitorun Nov 23 '11 at 22:20
    
@Pablitorun - that's simplified to the point where it's no longer a useful description of reality. But this isn't a discussion site - if you've got a question about it, please do post it as a new question. –  EnergyNumbers Nov 23 '11 at 22:41
    
sure it is simplified but it is a direct answer to your question about where the $9 comes from. –  Pablitorun Nov 24 '11 at 3:13
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@Pablitorun - While that is possible why would X borrow the money at rate y+z just to deposit it at rate y. In theory you could have this but if you really just want that extra payment every month then feel free to send it my way. –  user4127 Dec 7 '11 at 19:56

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