Portal:Business and economics/Selected article/November 2007

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In economics, hyperinflation is inflation that is "out of control," a condition in which prices increase rapidly as a currency loses its value. No precise definition of hyperinflation is universally accepted. One simple definition requires a monthly inflation rate of 20 or 30% or more. In informal usage the term is often applied to much lower rates.

The definition used by most economists is "an inflationary cycle without any tendency toward equilibrium." A vicious circle is created in which more and more inflation is created with each iteration of the cycle. Although there is a great deal of debate about the root causes of hyperinflation, it becomes visible when there is an unchecked increase in the money supply or drastic debasement of coinage, and is often associated with wars (or their aftermath), economic depressions, and political or social upheavals.

The main cause of hyperinflation is a massive imbalance between the supply and demand of a certain currency or type of money, usually due to a complete loss of confidence in the currency similar to a bank run. First, the enactment of legal tender laws prevent discounting the value of paper money vis-a vis gold, silver or a hard currency, by forcing acceptance of a paper money which lacks intrinsic value. If the entity responsible for printing a currency then promotes excessive money printing, with other factors contributing a reinforcing effect, hyperinflation usually occurs. Often the body responsible for printing the currency cannot physically print paper currency faster than the rate at which it is devaluing, thus neutralising their attempts to stimulate the economy.