Déflation et démocratie

PRINCETON – L’histoire de la finance est en partie celle d’une lutte pour trouver un moyen sûr et stable de mesurer les valeurs. Comme toute quête de certitude dans notre monde imprévisible, elle était vouée à l’échec. La crise financière actuelle met cette vulnérabilité en pleine lumière, puisqu’elle détruit toute impression que l’on peut donner une valeur précise aux choses. Désormais, nous sommes pour la plupart convaincus que cette incertitude est inhérente au système financier. Or, elle révèle également des problèmes profonds de l’ordre politique.

Par le passé, la monnaie métallique apportait une réponse peu pratique et insatisfaisante à la question de la valeur. Peu pratique, parce que l’or était incommode pour les transactions courantes et que l’argent avait trop peu de valeur pour les gros transferts. 

De plus, avec la découverte de nouvelles sources d’approvisionnement, la monnaie métallique était sujette à des changements imprévisibles de valeur. L’arrivée de l’argent depuis le nouveau monde au XVIe siècle a provoqué une inflation durable ; la découverte de l’or en Californie au milieu du XIXe siècle et en Alaska, en Afrique du Sud et en Australie 50 ans plus tard, ont produit une inflation modérée ; et l’absence de telles découvertes dans les années 1870 et 1880, une déflation modérée.

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