Is Currency Devaluation Causing Deflation?

currency-war2

As a scholar, I love the “Aha!” moment when something crystallizes in my mind. That moment came to me right after I posted The Gold (and Bitcoin) Fallacy. For some reason, my brain started to fire after writing the following:

Using my methods, Bitcoin’s divisibility could indeed be leveraged to make it a viable currency. However, the exercise also revealed that Bitcoin divisibility is indeed inflationary by nature and that high demand is naturally price inflationary.

These final sentences stuck in my head and I could feel a fire burning. Then, all of a sudden…

It hit me.

I had stumbled upon something in my post Fixing Bitcoin Part II: Pricing with Bitcoin Units; the clue was in the following section:

What I’m proposing allows Bitcoin to be used mostly in whole units irrespective of what it is trading for. This system easily moves from Bitcoin to fiat currency and vice versa. Let’s start with the variables:

  1. Price of item in fiat currency;
  2. Maximum Exchange Rate (= 10 units of correlated fiat currency);
  3. # of expansions of the Fractional Rate. This correlates to demand and is equal to the number of times Bitcoin exceeds the Maximum Exchange Rate. For instance, a Fractional Rate of .000000000000001 means that demand for Bitcoin has caused its exchange rate to “turn over” 15 times. This number is easily determined simply by counting the number of places to the right of the decimal point. In the above example, the # of expansions of the Fractional Rate would be 15.
  4. Price of item in bitcoin units.

The formula for converting fiat pricing to Bitcoin pricing would be as follows:

((price in fiat currency) / (maximum exchange rate = 10)) * (# of unit expansions) = (price in bitcoin units)

Let’s say you want to sell an $899 PC in Bitcoin units. Using today’s current Bitcoin exchange rate in $USD, here’s how it would look:

($899 / 10) * ($221.20/10 = 22) = 1977.80 BTC units

Note: “221.20” is Bitcoin’s exchange rate in $USD as of this very instant; to approximate the Fractional Rate, this number is simply divided by my proposed Maximum Exchange Rate of 10 units of a correlated fiat currency. In this example, this would be equivalent to $10USD.

Conversely, the formula for converting Bitcoin pricing to fiat pricing would be as follows::

((price in bitcoin units) / (# of unit expansions)) * (maximum exchange rate = 10) = (price of in fiat currency)

Using the previous dollar figure of $899, let’s convert Bitcoin units into fiat currency:

(1977.80 / ($221.20/10 = 22)) * 10 = $899

Lets say the fractional rate is 71 instead of 22. Using the same $899 price from the previous example, here are the conversions:

($899 / 10) * 71 = 6382.90 BTC units

or

(6382.90 / 71) * 10 = $899

In this fashion, it is possible to price items in units of Bitcoin relative to fiat currency or the reverse.

What I realized is that an interesting thing occurs in this process: the price of something in bitcoin units has a direct correlation to the increase in demand for Bitcoin. When converting bitcoin into bitcoin units, I use a variable called the “Fractional Rate,” which is the number of times Bitcoin’s exchange rate would “roll over” if it had a a hard cap of $10. When I wrote my post, a single bitcoin was worth $221.20USD; the Fractional Rate would equal “22” based on dividing the exchange rate by the Maximum Exchange Rate of $10 per unit. In the other portion of the example, I speculated on a Fractional Rate of “71”; by multiplying the Fractional Rate by the Maximum Exchange Rate of $10, the proposed exchange rate would be approximately $710 (between $710.01 and $720.01 more exactly).

For more perspective, consider the current exchange rate between BTC and USD, $821.20 per bitcoin as of this moment. To determine the Fractional Rate for my equation, I would do the following:

$821.20/$10 (Maximum Exchange Rate) = 82

Compare the difference in the Fractional Rate from my Fixing Bitcoin, Part II post to this current one, “22” versus “82.” The change in the Fractional Rate represents a significant increase in the “demand” for Bitcoin as represented by the increase in the exchange price (I use the term “demand” loosely as the increase in exchange price also represents the halving of block rewards, which makes bitcoin production more scarce).

If you look at my example, you will see that an $899 computer costs 1977.80 bitcoin units at the Fractional Rate of “22” and 6382.90 bitcoin units at the Fractional Rate of “71.” In other words, the example showed a direct correlation between the increase in demand for Bitcoin and an increase in price as expressed in bitcoin units. No doubt that I could also show the reverse, a decrease in the price of an item in bitcoin units based on a decrease in the demand for Bitcoin. It’s all basic mathematics.

(Note: for more background on bitcoin units, please read The Post Where I Fix Bitcoin and Fixing Bitcoin Part II: Pricing with Bitcoin Units)

Now here is the crazy part, the part that has my brain firing…

What if there is a direct correlation between the demand for any money and prices?

What if currency devaluation is a significant cause of deflation?

The implications of this are pretty significant. Maybe this is common knowledge in the economics profession but, if I’m correct (and it isn’t), this kind of blows me away. Let’s assume I’m correct and neither insane nor way behind the curve… then what does this mean?

If demand for a money directly correlates to pricing then the current deflation and the difficulty addressing it becomes much easier to understand. Most countries are aggressively devaluing their currency to improve their ability to export goods; it’s possible that this process is counteracting inflation. The proper corrective then is for a nation experiencing disinflation or deflation to allow its money to “strengthen.” However, that process relative to other countries devaluing their currency creates a Catch-22 scenario: strengthen your currency to reach inflation targets and have your exports become less competitive or keep your currency “weak” for stronger exports at the expense of disinflation or deflation.

Another interesting aspect of this possible connection is that the ideal state of equilibrium regarding currency exchange between nations becomes determinable. Ideally, the exchange rate between nations is 1:1 based on the total money supply of each country. For instance:

Let’s say Japan’s total money supply is 1000yen and the United States’ is $200USD. The ideal exchange rate between them would be 1:1 or 5yen to $1USD. Now let’s add Great Britain to the mix at 350pounds; at 1:1, it’s exchange rate with Japan would be 1pound to 2.86yen and 1.4pounds to $1USD.

And so on.

Those exchange rates would be ideal as they would promote economic stability. Now what about monetary inflation? My supposition is that the ideal rate of currency inflation is equal to potential demand. A simplified version of this is that each country would inflate (or deflate) its currency at a percentage equal to its populations growth rate to maintain the 1:1 connection with other currencies. Obviously, this is a challenging concept in a globalized world in which demand for a nation’s currency can transcend borders. Also, the temptation for a nation to devalue its currency is pretty strong and maintaining an asymmetry with trading partners is an attractive proposition. I think that many of the issues regarding the world’s currencies stems from the contradictory needs of every country to reach target inflation rates, which may require “strengthening” a country’s money, versus creating an attractive export situation, which benefits from currency devaluation.

So, is demand for a money directly correlated to price levels? Can disinflation/deflation be corrected by “strengthening” a nation’s currency? If so, how will it affect a country’s exports? Will the prospect of this connection allow countries to more accurately identify their target inflation rates? And can strengthening or weakening their currencies provide a new weapon for controlling inflation?

Interesting questions for an interesting time.

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