The mark's fall began gradually. In the war years, 1914-1918, its foreign exchange value halved, and by August 1919 it had halved again. In early 1920, however, although the cost of living had risen less than nine times since 1914, the mark had only one-fortieth of its overseas purchasing power left. There followed twelve months of nervous fluctuation, but then the mark sped downwards with gathering momentum, dragging social misery and political disruption in its wake. Not until 1923 did Germany's currency at last go over the cliff-edge of sanity to which it had, as it were, clung for many months with slipping finger-tips. Pursuing the money of Austria and Hungary into the abyss, it crashed there more heavily than either.
The inflation of 1923 was so preposterous, and its end so sudden, that the story has tended to be passed off more as a historical curiosity, which it also undoubtedly was, than as the culmination of a chain of economic, social and political circumstance of permanent significance. It matters little that the causes of the Weimar inflation are in many ways unrepeatable; that political conditions are different, or that it is almost inconceivable that financial chaos would ever again be allowed to develop so far. The question to be asked ó the danger to be recognised ó is how inflation, however caused, affects a nation: its government, its people, its officials, and its society. The more materialist that society, possibly, the more cruelly it hurts. If what happened to the defeated Central Powers in the early 19203 is anything to go by, then the process of collapse of the recognised, traditional, trusted medium of exchange, the currency by which all values are measured, by which social status is guaranteed, upon which security depends, and in which the fruits of labour are stored, unleashes such greed, violence, unhappiness, and hatred, largely bred from fear, as no society can survive uncrippled and unchanged.
In a lengthy interview many years afterwards with Pearl Buck, Erna von Pustau, whose father was a small Hamburg businessman who ran a fishmarket, made the same point: 'We used to say "The dollar is going up again", while in reality the dollar remained stable but our mark was falling. But, you see, we could hardly say our mark was falling since in figures it was constantly going up -and so were the prices ó and this was much more visible than the realisation that the value of our money was going down Ö It all seemed just madness, and it made the people mad.' In other words, the causes of the mark's depreciation, which certainly escaped Germany's politicians and bankers as well, had little enough to do with how the people, individually or collectively, reacted to it. Most of them clung to the mark, the currency they knew and believed in, long after the eleventh hour had come round for the umpteenth time. Most had no choice; but all were encouraged or bemused by the Reichsbank's creed of Mark gleich Mark ó paper or gold, a mark is a mark is a mark. If prices went up, people demanded not a stable purchasing power for the marks they had, but more marks to buy what they needed. More marks were printed, and more, and more. Inflation, already in its fourth year when revolution overthrew the old regime, added a new, overwhelming uncertainty to the many uncertainties that attended the birth of the Weimar Republic.
Weimar is an interesting case study of years of inflation morphing into hyper-inflation, but not one of "sudden currency repudiation".
James Turk admits as much and suggests attention should instead be turned to Argentina.
Modern money "shorts" the currency, and is backed by debt. The debt is real. A debt deflation will lead to a prolonged period of deleveraging, where the short-covering of currencies will strengthen currencies relative to asset prices. At the global level, in the FX market, central currencies will benefit from deleveraging at the expense of peripheral currencies. Due to instability and uncertainty, gold will benefit against all currencies as it continues to be re-monetized.
Hold on to your hats for hyper-deflation, where cash is king, and gold the King of cash.
[Silver? A Volatile Queen].