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How High for Gold and Silver? Part II: Hyperinflation

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In Part I, I presented readers with a very strange scenario.  We have had the price of gold and silver surging higher for a decade – as a response to unprecedented currency-destruction by our desperate and reckless central bankers, and endorsed by our political “leaders”, who serve those same bankers.

Thus, the surge in bullion prices has had little to do with the (absolute) “value” of gold and silver rising, and everything to do with the crisis of our paper-money being relentlessly driven toward zero. The monetary phenomenon where currencies approach zero is referred to as “hyperinflation”.

The Wikipedia “definition” of hyperinflation notes that there is no consensus on a definition of this term, but puts the most emphasis on the particular definition of “at least” 50% inflation per month (and compounding). This equates to well over 1000% per year, or roughly 100 times as much as almost any of us has experienced in our lives. Many precious metals commentators (including myself) have warned that hyperinflation in one or more Western economies (starting with the U.S.) is a highly likely result – if not a near-certainty (and yet few of us endeavour to specifically define it).

Now we get to the “strange” part. As a matter of simple arithmetic, we know that as a currency goes to zero, the price of goods (such as gold and silver) goes to infinity. Yet despite a plethora of hyperinflation warnings, when we look around for estimates/predictions of the future price of gold, we see numbers that go no higher than about $10,000/oz. Even those who never excelled at math know there is a gigantic gulf between the number 10,000 and infinity (starting with millions, billions, and trillions).

There are only a few ways in which we can attempt to resolve/explain this logical paradox. The price-targets could be only “medium-term” rather than long-term price targets, but I personally don’t recall seeing use of the phrase “medium-term” in most such analyses. The price-targets could be the “predictions” of these commentators if-and-only-if hyperinflation does not occur. Again, my own recollections are that most other authors are not making this distinction.

This leaves only one other possible explanation for this logical disconnect: precious metals commentators (including myself) are unable to truly understand hyperinflation, and therefore our “predictions” for future prices are a reflection of this lack of comprehension. I will argue that this is not only the obvious answer, but the only answer which fits – given our level of comprehension of such economic (and mathematical) phenomena.

While hyperinflation is a term with which most people are familiar, familiarity in no way implies comprehension. We’re familiar with the stars in the sky. However, none of us are capable of envisioning an object either as large, or as hot as these infinite number of other “suns” above us. Indeed, what we are most incapable of understanding when we look up into the night-sky are the number of stars, themselves: infinity. I doubt that I will get many objections when I say that the human mind is unable to grasp the number “infinity”.

If I were to ask some highly-intelligent stranger whom I happened to pass by on the street to “define” infinity, most likely I would receive some sort of dictionary-definition in reply. However, if I asked the same person to describe infinity, the response is fairly predictable. The other person would pause, and then confess an inability to do so – citing the fact that we lack the words in our own language necessary to embody that concept.

Clearly it requires some intellect of near-infinite capacity in order to genuinely “understand” (and thus be able to explain) what the mathematical concept known as “infinity” really represents. Not being able to grasp infinity, this immediately means we are unable to understand ½ of the hyperinflation “equation”: prices (including the price of gold and silver) going to infinity.

Getting back to the Wikipedia definition (or any of the alternatives), we encounter a fundamental problem: what is the use of a definition which none of us can really comprehend? Can anyone imagine weather 100 times “hotter” than the hottest day of our lives? Can we envision and comprehend sound 100 times louder than the loudest rock-concert?

A definition which no one can understand is, in fact, no “definition” at all. This leaves us with another paradox: trying to define something beyond comprehension. Clearly any useful definition must be in terms where comprehension is at least possible for most members of society.

This leads me to a definition which is accessible, if somewhat imprecise: hyperinflation is an economic phenomenon where prices cease to have meaning. Whether we are referring to the the miniscule, residual value of a currency, or the exponentially spiraling prices of all goods, once the progression of such numbers has expanded beyond our ability to firmly grasp their relative value, we can safely conclude that we have entered a hyperinflationary spiral.

Some will argue that whatever my “definition” gains in terms of being accessible, it loses for lack of precision. My rebuttal to that is that we appear to already have some crude “demarcation point” for when the hyperinflation spiral begins: when the price of gold hits/approaches $10,000/oz. While some will argue that this is nothing more than a convenient (and arbitrary) “round” number, in an economic phenomenon as massive as hyperinflation, simply being able to identify the correct “order of magnitude” for when hyperinflation may/will begin is about the highest level of certainty which we could reasonably seek to attain.

Before I proceed further in this analysis, there is the flip-side of the hyperinflation equation: our paper-currencies going to zero. Here, if I try to argue that no one “understands” this half of the process, I am certain to get an argument.

Everyone understands “zero” (or will claim to), and so most people would (erroneously) assume that they could “understand” the process of our currencies moving toward zero. This is the logical distinction which will be difficult for many to grasp. While we may have a crude grasp of the numerical significance of zero, this in no way implies that we would understand the process of something shrinking to such a minute size that it almost equates to zero.

Remember that we are merely examining the flip-side of hyperinflation: prices go toward infinity while the currency plunges toward zero. Having already established that we cannot grasp the upward movement in numbers toward infinity, it is logically absurd to then claim that we do understand the exact opposite phenomenon: the plunge toward zero.

For stubborn readers out there, who refuse to accept the logic of this proposition, here’s a question for you: can you really claim to “understand” how big an atom is? Or, how “big” is an electron, or a “quark”? If we acknowledge being unable to understand the size of objects millions of times larger than anything we can experience in our everyday lives, we must equally acknowledge the incapacity of our minds to comprehend objects which are the tiniest fractions in size of objects with which we are familiar.

In short, if we are unable to visualize atoms and electrons and quarks, then this lack of comprehension must equate to being unable to comprehend currencies which are worth only the tiniest increment of their current value. While some readers may consider this some useless exercise in philosophy, there is “a method to my madness”.

Having demonstrated that none of us is capable of truly understanding hyperinflation (and numbers moving extremely rapidly in opposite directions), it stands to reason that none of us is capable of properly preparing for hyperinflation. In other words, if we try to “think” of what we need to do, and what sort of financial “insurance” we need for such a catastrophe, we must acknowledge that our planning will be defective. More specifically, since we are unable to understand the severity of this economic phenomenon, this directly implies that we will under-prepare for it.

Immediately, prudent individuals out there will begin to mentally review their own preparedness for this possibility – and hopefully revise such planning to some degree. Yet, as alarming as it is to suggest to even informed readers that they are likely “under-prepared” for what lies ahead, this is only a minor shock, in comparison to a much greater horror.

We are being “led” by people who (we now know) are totally incapable of understanding hyperinflation. Yet, simultaneously these esteemed heads-of-state and bankers are willfully engaging in reckless monetary policy where the “goal” is to take us to the brink of a hyperinflationary spiral – and then to pull-back on such recklessness.

We have a century of detailed history to provide us with empirical evidence of the skill/success which these bankers have had in administering just the “right amount” of monetary medicine for a variety of economic scenarios. In virtually every case, these “experts” over-shoot their “targets”.

Until now, the recklessness and gross incompetence of these bankers has had only relatively minor (negative) consequences on our lives and economies – and these failures occurred with respect to sets of parameters which (supposedly) these expert-bankers completely understood. What should we expect today, where the same bankers are responding to totally unprecedented economic events with reckless (and totally untested) monetary policies – designed to take us only to the “brink” of a much larger, much more horrifying economic event, of which they don’t have the slightest comprehension?

To refer to current, global economic policy as “the blind leading the blind” is clearly an insult to those individuals who have lost their sight – in a number of ways. First of all, many blind people learn to “navigate” their lives with a much greater level of success and expertise than our central bankers have displayed in “navigating” our economies with their monetary policy.

More importantly, blind people realize they must adopt a higher level of prudence in their lifestyles – through being robbed of the sensory perception which alerts us to many types of risks/threats to safety. Central bankers have no such comprehension – as they pathetically stumble about, merely pretending to understand what is happening, and pretending to understand their own “solutions”.

Imagine taking the two, worst drivers in the world, putting them behind the wheel of a car, and then having them play a game of “chicken”. Now imagine these same two drivers being goaded-on (if not whipped into a frenzy) by a large group of spectators who are betting on this game (lets call them Wall Street bankers). Is this a scenario which is likely to end well?

Fear of the “unknown” is a very common reaction in our species. This fear manifests itself in a nearly infinite number of ways. We tend to fear people who are different from us, with this fear being so magnified in many members of society that it constitutes a mental “condition”: xenophobia. Similarly, we have many other “fears” in our day-to-day lives, with most of us having at least one form of “phobia” – or excessive fear with respect to some aspect of our life-experience.

We recognize such fears as being irrational in origin, and stronger-minded members of society will tend to try to overcome such irrational fears. While fear is generally an emotion which is a purely negative facet of our lives, rational individuals will never attempt to suppress or ignore all such fear – to the point where they abandon all prudence in their lives. And yet this is exactly what our governments are intent on accomplishing.

A metaphor comes to mind: a submarine, traveling deep under-water, with nothing but a tiny periscope to guide it – and absolutely no “radar”. In our economic metaphor, we know there is no radar, because we lack the technical capacity to construct “radar” capable of “seeing” hyperinflation ahead of us.

Damn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead!” shouts Admiral “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke.

Which way are we going?” asks First Mate Tim Geithner.

Who knows? Who cares?” snarls Admiral Ben, “Let’s just get there as fast as possible…”

I have provided readers with a long list of rational, carefully constructed reasons as to why we all need to “insure” our economic well-being with precious metals – real “physical” bullion which we can still purchase at reasonable prices, and which is a tangible form of wealth, beyond even the destructive capacity of our leaders and bankers.

Today, I will break with that pattern, and advise people to protect themselves based upon fear. However, the “fear” which I’m asserting as a reason to engage in further protective measures is not some irrational, or unquantifiable fear of some unknown economic future. No, the “fear” which should motivate us to increase our own preparedness is the fear of the clueless idiots who are in charge of our economies.

Dealing with economic problems of which they have not the slightest understanding, using the most-reckless economic policies in history (and thus totally untested ones) to try to “fix” those problems, and arrogantly rejecting even the possibility of a much greater catastrophe (hyperinflation) – which they comprehend even less (if that is even possible) is the scenario facing us. Even the most-depraved minds in Hollywood are unable to devise a “horror story” any more frightening than that.

There is an opposite psychological phenomenon to fear: mania. While rational readers would probably express a desire that our leaders not be overly fearful – since timidity can also lead to negative repercussions – I think it is safe to say that no sane reader out there can possibly be comfortable with the collection of literal “maniacs” who lead us today.

In many respects, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the reprehensible condition of our economies, after all, in our pseudo-democracies we are the ones who have put these maniacs in charge of us. Sadly, ridding ourselves of these ignorant, arrogant, incompetent, and oh-so reckless leaders will prove much more difficult than putting them in charge in the first place.

This strongly suggests that the harm being caused by these maniacs is still in its infancy. Meanwhile, hyperinflation looms before us, like the Mother-of-all-Icebergs. For all those who expect our current collection of leaders and bankers to skillfully navigate our economies around that iceberg (using nothing but their own, tiny periscopes), just sit back and relax – while humming the tune “Happy Days Are Here Again!”

For everyone else, buy gold and silver.

Comments (19)Add Comment
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, March 23, 2012
Out of the countries who experienced hyperinflation, how many months did it continue until a "reset" was achieved and things (food prices etc) returned to normal?

What are the reasons we could expect a US/global hyperinflation scenario to take more or less time?

Maxblockm, I don't think it's possible to generalize here. Zimbabwe shows no sign of emerging from its economic collapse - in part because its corrupt dictator remains in power.

With respect to the U.S., there are MANY reasons to expect that a U.S. hyperinflation would be severe - starting with all the $TRILLIONS held outside the country. This is a situation which has never existed with respect to any other major hyperinflation.

So the two variables would appear to be:

a) How long would the American people continue to tolerate the (corrupt) two-party dictatorship which BROUGHT them hyperinflation?
b) How long until the U.S. dollar was simply removed from circulation and REPLACED with a new, viable U.S. currency?

I don't think today that anyone could provide any firm guidance with respect to those issues.
written by maxblockm, March 23, 2012
Out of the countries who experienced hyperinflation, how many months did it continue until a "reset" was achieved and things (food prices etc) returned to normal?

What are the reasons we could expect a US/global hyperinflation scenario to take more or less time?

Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, November 21, 2010
Thanks for the kind words, Dave!

Your timing is good in that I just decided it was time to do a piece on a "more conservative" outlook for silver (and gold).
written by daveddawg, November 20, 2010
Geez Jeff, I am only 1 month late in reading this article, and it is one of your best yet. I fancy myself a wordsmith at times, but I pale in comparison to you. And you get economics and politics. And philosophy. I would consider myself lucky to meet you in person some day. Thanks for all your good work and articles. Dave
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, October 23, 2010
A very useful numerical exercise, Hockmir.

Yes, people should try to learn to "recognize" hyperinflation now (at least in theory), since when it DOES actually arrive, the combination of shock and anger is going to seriously impair the analytical powers of most (if not all) of us.

More specifically, as another "exercise" people might want to try to work-out their monthly budget after only ONE month of 50% per month inflation...

written by hockmir, October 23, 2010
Jeff - As a techno-head, I have often been told that folks of my ilk are of a type where, if you ask us the time, we respond with full instructions on how to buil,d your own clock. Keeping in that spirit, I will submit that it would take the general populace, and the Mainstream media, about 3-4 months to recognize that a hyperinflation were underway.

If we use your rule-of-thumb that a hyperinflation may be considered to be in progress when currency inflation reaches 50% per month, here is a teaching scenario which may help you and some of the less numerically gifted readers visualize what might happen to both the price of Gold and other commodities, and when people will recognize that something is very, very wrong.

Let us take a 20 pound sack of rice. Currently available for about the price of 1/100th of an ounc of Gold. Lets say, for this argument $13.

With 50% per month inflation, that same sack of rice would sell for $19.50. I can assume folks would get rather grumbly, but would not yet recognize the magnitude of their situation.

After another month (now 2 months of such inflation) the same sack of rice would now be selling for $29.25. I can assume even more grumbles. Some families would be in serious difficulty, others would cut food portion sizes a bit, and some would pay and wince.

After a third month of such inflation, the same sad sack of rice would now sell for $43.88. It is about this point where the general public would become seriously distressed, and would begin to fail to be able to purchase sufficient nutrition (or pay the $10 or so per gallon that gasoline would be selling for)

After the 4th month, the rice would now cost $65 per sack, gasoline would be $15 per gallon, and serious dislocations would begin to develop. Using our previous model, Gold would be running at $6500 per ounce.

In one more month, the rice (if it could be found at all) would sell for about $100 per sack, gas (if it could be found at all) would sell for around $25 per gallon, gold would approach $10,000 per ounce, and, I expect that the general citizenry would be conducting torchlight parades to show-off their assets, consisting of pitchforks and shotguns.

Just my estimation. Take it, leave it, or provide a counter-offer.
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, October 21, 2010
Navderek, that's hilarious!

These dumb Canucks can't make money in their equities trading, BUT they're going to make BIG profits as "currency traders"...
written by navderek, October 21, 2010
What? Silver is not edible? Uh oh, I'm going to starve with all that silver! This could explain all the broken teeth....hahaha

Oh and the sheep are still rampant. I swung by the currency exchange booth last week and it was jam packed. I asked what was going on and there were Canadians exchanging Canadian dollars for US Dollars, hand over fist. I was very confused about this so asked more questions and basically all the sheep were doing this because they have been told by the media that this is only a temporary blip in the US dollar value and that they stand to make some hefty profits by exchanging now when the US dollar is weak.

ROFL ROFL ROFL ROFL...poor little sheep. They will be losing their shirts, umm I mean coats...and right before winter!
written by mathnerd, October 19, 2010
apberusdisvet, you are absolutely right.

I'm an undergraduate university student.

I've been trying to warn many of my classmates of the impending hard times. They think the USD can't lose value, never mind the skepticism that it will (this skepticism is typical of outsiders when told about a secular trend in a market).

Furthermore, my fellow students think "the source problem isn't here [in Canada] so it won't affect me."

And then there's Keynesianism that's being taught as being completely correct without mention of inflation. (Keynesianism could work in theory, but not in a democracy. Also, it assumes that government could spend more efficiently than the private sector)

I could go on.

I'm an elite student in economics classes and I make an effort to reconcile my understanding with what the textbook says, but very few of my fellow students do the same thing.
written by apberusdisvet, October 19, 2010
Jeff: you talk about stealth inflation. It's already apparent at the grocery store, at the gas pump and certainly with health care costs here in the US. The elderly in this country are undergoing stealth genocide, due to the provisions in Obamacare and in the inflation of necessities. It's interesting to note that Obama's Health Czar is a great proponent of Eugenics and rationing.

Those of us older folks who were educated before the Progressives took control of the schools via unionization understand full well what is happening; we are the only group that hasn't been thoroughly indoctrinated and we can see through the obvious propaganda. I imagine that we are now a preferred target for elimination.

Those under fifty are not going to see the 2x4 to the head that is coming. Keep up the good work, Jeff; I'm just afraid that you are preaching to the choir, whether here or on S/A. The vast majority out there are more interested in what the government can do for them rather than taking the responsibility for their own futures and planning accordingly.
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, October 19, 2010
Regarding the general preparedness for such an episode, certainly being able to establish one's own "food security" is extremely important.

However, a big part of the reason why I wrote this was to get people even more focused on PREVENTING as much harm as possible - specifically to try to reduce your exposure to fiat-currencies even more than many have done so far.

Having measures in place to cope once disaster has struck is wonderful, but even before that we must make sure we have done everything that is reasonable to minimize the damage we suffer.
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, October 19, 2010

We can easily imagine virtually any sort of crimes on the part of our governments, however even in recognizing their baser tendencies, we still have to look to motive, reward, and risk.

Attacking the bullion market alone cannot do anything to prevent hyperinflation - there are a WORLD of other commodities and hard assets which would provide all the 'evidence' necessary.

The quantities of bullion available for confiscation would be little more than a drop in the bucket in solving debt problems. The ONLY argument I've heard which is somewhat persuasive is that confiscating gold BEFORE a hyperinflation spiral began MIGHT delay it - by forcing people to hold more paper.

However, that likely would be of little use in preventing U.S. hyperinflation - since so much of the currency is held outside the country, and THOSE holders can't be forced to hold onto it.

So I don't see "confiscation" as a real worry until AFTER a gold standard was reintroduced - when there would be REAL motives for such behavior.
written by Null, October 18, 2010
WRT preparing, I think my family is in good shape compared with most other people. My mom has 2 acres of productive land on Vancouver Island with a river in the backyard and spawning salmon, and I am good at surviving in the wilderness for extended periods (did it for 2 months last summer). Also, you can eat kelp if you blanch it and season it properly, and it doesn't taste kelpy at all, it's very good. I think we will invest in a boat when hyperinflation kicks in and I can buy one for a few ounces of silver.

Thankfully my mom is taking this seriously and allowing me to guide things (my brother in law was warning us all about this before the 2008 collapse). My big concern is security. Because I urged my friends to buy gold (only one of which did, and plans to buy more), many people know we have gold and if things get really bad this could be a liability. What do we do with it? You can't just bury it because a metal detector would find it. You could bury it beside another large metal object to hide it maybe. I do not trust the safety deposit boxes at the bank. I think security would be a very good profession to get into now in preparation for what's coming.
written by mathnerd, October 18, 2010
Grumley, having knowledge doesn't equate to using that knowledge. A couple months ago Kingworld News interviewed a woman who had been a child in the Weimar Republic during their reichmark's demise. People knew the danger of inflating the currency supply, but the government ignored the danger.

(I'd assume some people in Zimbabwe also knew about the hyperinflation threat.)

This German senior said, "When hyperinflation arrived, it was a bolt of lightning that kept striking. The people in power kept expecting things to return to normal, but instead they got worse."

With the "bubble" talk about gold and silver in the mainstream media today, does that ring any bells?

Should we suffer hyperinflation, I hope David Morgan's right in saying that people would put aside their differences and come together.
written by mathnerd, October 18, 2010
When a country starts suffering price inflation, people using that country's currency scramble to spend that currency while it still has some value. All of us here know that.

When it starts, I think the level of chaos would closely follow an exponential-decay pattern. People wake up to find their savings accounts accounts are essentially worthless, and the black market would soon start kicking in - but there would be a while before things became something resembling normal.

Again, we know this.

But having money with which to buy things with is of limited use if nothing's available for sale. And with the level of chaos when hyperinflation starts, I'd want to have enough food to get through the first couple of months.

So you might want to consider stocking up on consumables - especially fresh water (maybe 25 gallons per person for one week), canned and dried food, you get the idea.

But canned meat and fish is high in salt - bad idea to rely on it for weeks at a time. You could go with nuts and peanuts, but they're incomplete proteins and you'll get protein defiencies over time.

On the topic of salt, it's reasonably good at keeping stuff microbe-free (but for other reasons I don't think it could compete with silver there). Iodine's a cleaning & disinfecting agent. You might choose to stop doing laundry (thus reducing your water needs), but keeping your food viable will be a necessity.

For carbs, rice and pasta - which stay good for a long time - need to be cooked first (at least I'd assume so), so fuel you can burn is something else to stow away.

Canned stuff stays good for quite a while, so maybe that would keep you covered for vitamins & minerals. I just don't know what the long-term implications of eating it constantly would be.

I have no idea how you could manage with respect to milk products.

I'm sure I've missed some things on the subject of food and hyperinflation, but this is stuff for thought.
written by ced_poi, October 18, 2010
Hello Jeff,

I have read both of your articles on the hyperinflation and I think they are very interesting and constructive. Thank you for this.

Here is my definition of hyperinflation: It is the loss of faith in the currency.

On another point, there something I would have liked you to mention. It is the government ability to change the rules of the game… What happens if the government decides to freeze/confiscate/control officially the price of gold/silver? Do you think they will let the money hyper inflate against gold like this without trying to act? I do not believe so since this has already happened in the past.

written by Grumley, October 18, 2010
I suppose our only hope will be how quickly the masses awaken and whether Bernanke can be forced out before all is lost.
Jeff Nielson
written by Jeff Nielson, October 18, 2010

This is the worst aspect of self-delusion, which is yet another manifestation of their over-whelming arrogance: the belief that they can be the FIRST government to have hyperinflation "ignited", without it totally ravaging the economy.

There is every reason to believe that this will be the world's first "stealth" hyperinflation - in that with the biggest, most-refined propaganda-machine in the history of the world, that historians will look back and peg the start of the episode much earlier than it was/will be reported by the media.

In this respect, it will be hard to say how much of the endless "posturing" by the bankers/politicians will be more (intentional) disinformation on their part - and how much will be their own lack of comprehension/self-delusion.

Much like someone can stand in the middle of a dense forest, and not notice a massive wildfire approaching until it's far too late, if these "experts" continue to maintain their tunnel-vision on nothing but short-term charts and stats, then their capacity for self-delusion and denial approaches infinity - just like the prices of gold and silver.
written by Grumley, October 18, 2010
So here is a question Jeff. Let's say hyperinflation does occur (which I agree is likely, if not unavoidable). My question has to do with "depth". In Weimar and Zimbabwe, there was never any back-peddling involved. Leaders never either realized or acknowledged that they were wrong, or that their theories or policies did not work. When we speak of hyperinflation in the US are we assuming people like Geithner and Bernanke will also be in denial until we hit the ground at full speed? Does anyone believe that with our hindsight of Weimar and Zimbabwe the Fed will be able to, once realizing the hyperinflation has started, let go of the stick and let the plane eventually right itself? Human nature being what it is I would say no, but with the modern educational influence of our global internet and blogs like this one whereby people refuse to be duped, does it provide enough advantage to be hopeful of a limited hyperinflationary event?

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