January 13, 2011
In 1923 a billion meant a million times a million, as it does today, but unlike today, there were no real billionaires around, except for the false ones in the Weimar Republic. Just imagine. At the end of the Great War one could in theory “have bought 500,000,000,000 eggs for the same price as that for which, five years later, only a single egg was procurable.” I am quoting Adam Ferguson. Papa Hemingway wrote a wonderful news story about German inflation called “War Medals for Sale.” He describes how a distinguished gentleman offers a few medals to a man selling apples from a cart. The man pulls open a drawer in the cart and shows it to him. It’s full of medals. The gent says nothing and walks away with dignity. When I first read it I died a little. So you fight for your country and what you get in return cannot even buy you an apple. No wonder Hitler came to power.
My father-in-law told me that paying bills by post became a no-no because the stamp cost more than the amount being paid, no matter how large. In the Austrian Embassy in Rome where his father was ambassador, the staff went unpaid but continued to work out of respect for His Excellency the Prince. He was so disgusted he paid out of his pocket, resigned, and went home.
I write all this because of Uncle Sam and the Bank of England’s appetite for “quantitative easing,” the bureaucrooks’ lingo for printing moolah. Why can’t they simply call it printing money? QE is an American invention, like reality shows and celebrity programs. The Brits simply follow, the way they did for Iraq and Afghanistan. The bankers tell us that printing money will stimulate the economy. The great economist Taki is not convinced. Stopping the presses is like stopping a VLCC—a very large tanker—it can take up to twenty miles. Worse, it takes a very long time for inflation to show up even after you’ve stopped printing. At present, inflation is running at three times the rate of public and private sector pay increases, which means everyone is getting poorer except for the bankers, the dealmakers, and those who owe big money to the big banks for the dealmakers’ financing of their shady mega-deals.
Still, life goes on and a very good life it is except for the crappy snow in Gstaad and the arrival of Abramovich types—not too many, thank God. I had a slight run-in with one of them who refused to take off his very dirty boots inside a very clean shop on The Promenade. The owner didn’t dare ask him to remove them. So I put in my two cents by reminding him that it wasn’t too long ago that he was without shoes, so why not revert to his younger self and remove them? He was not best pleased.