List of world hyperinflations so far..

Steve Hanke and Nicholas Krus of Cato Institute have worked on a list of countries which have hyperinflations so far in econ history.

They say the literature  on hyperinflation is either incomplete (as in certain countries are missed) or incorrect (as facts are not right over right inflation numbers). As per the authors there are 56 episodes of hyperinflations:

This chapter supplies, for the first time, a table that contains all 56 episodes of hyperinflation, including several which had previously gone unreported. The Hyperinflation Table is compiled in a systematic and uniform way. Most importantly, it meets the replicability test. It utilizes clean and consistent inflation metrics, indicates the start and end dates of each episode, identifies the month of peak hyperinflation, and signifies the currency that was in circulation, as well as the method used to calculate inflation rates.

The literature on hyperinflation is replete with ad-hoc definitions, vague, ill-defined terminology, and a lack of concern for clear, uniform metrics. In consequence, sloppy reasoning is all too common. Although Peter Bernholz (2003) provides the most comprehensive list of hyperinflation episodes available (30 cases), the list does not follow a precise, consistent definition, and misses almost half of the cases reported in this chapter. Without a complete list of hyperinflation episodes in the scholarly literature, many people simply rely on Wikipedia and the unreliable information contained therein (e.g. Fischer 2010). To fill the void in the academic literature, we set out to construct a new, comprehensive table of the world’s hyperinflation episodes.

They go through many archives etc to figure missed hyperinflation episodes:

We soon learned why no such table exists. We frequently found leads suggesting new episodes, only to discover that the proper documentation of their source was lacking. Even in cases in which we thought replication would be straightforward, it was not.

Despite the fall of Communism having occurred over two decades ago, the Soviet-Bloc countries were a particular source of frustration – the data had seemingly been lost in time. After scouring the Library of Congress and the Joint World Bank-IMF Library in Washington D.C., as well as a variety of online databases, we finally came across a series of World Bank publications that ostensibly contained the requisite information.4 But, much of the information was not presented in a usable form. It was not uniform, and its dimensions were not always defined. For example, we did not know whether the numerical values represented year-over-year changes, monthly changes, or a price index. To put the raw data into shape, analysis and considerable effort were required.

In some cases they estimated data using PPP to figure inflation levels like Zimbabwe, Danzig etc.
Some missing episodes were easy to find:

Some “missing” cases were easier to find. We discovered the data for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s August 1998 hyperinflation using the IMF’s International Financial Statistics database – one readily available to most economists. Surprisingly, these data had gone unnoticed and ignored in the major works on hyperinflation.

Another largely unreported hyperinflation episode occurred in the Philippines, during World War II. In 1942, during its occupation of what was then the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Japan replaced the Philippine peso with the Japanese war notes. These notes were dubbed “Mickey Mouse money.” Their issuance eventually resulted in a hyperinflation that peaked in January 1944. It should be noted that the U.S. Army, under orders from General Douglas MacArthur, did add a relatively small amount of fuel to the Philippine hyperinflation fire by distributing counterfeit Japanese war notes to Philippine guerilla troupes via American submarines (Hartendorp 1958).

So who holds the record? It remains Hungary:
According to physicist Richard Feynman, “If an apple was magnified to the size of the earth, then the atoms in the apple would be approximately the size of the original apple” (Feynman et al., 1995: 5). To carry Feynman’s analogy, as atoms are to apples, monthly inflation rates are to hyperinflation. Indeed, one of the biggest problems in communicating information about hyperinflation is the extreme size of the inflation rates. For example, in July 1946, Hungary had a monthly inflation rate of 4.19 x 1016 %. To overcome this “size problem”, we include two metrics which help put hyperinflation into perspective: the equivalent daily inflation rate and the time required for prices to double. By making these calculations, we can more easily grasp Hungary’s world-record hyperinflation case; during its peak month of hyperinflation, July 1946, the equivalent daily inflation rate was roughly 207%, with prices doubling every 15 hours.
Nice list at the end. This is an amazing resource on hyperinflations…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: