Will the Present Upward Trend of World Prices Continue? (Classic Reprint)

Will the Present Upward Trend of World Prices Continue? (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Will the Present Upward Trend of World Prices Continue?

The whole civilized world is now eager to know whether in the future the high cost of living is to advance further, recede, or remain stationary. Opinions are plentiful but data supporting them are few. Even the best forecasts I have seen appear to be based on a very incomplete comprehension of the problem. Many conceive it as a problem of ordinary supply and demand and discuss the general price level as they would discuss the price of wheat or any other commodity, overlooking the fact that the causes affecting price levels are as distinct from those affecting an individual price as the causes affecting the tides are distinct from those affecting an individual wave.

The problem of the cost of living is primarily a problem of the general level of prices, although it is also partly a problem of special prices. If the phrase "cost of living" were used to refer to the general level of all prices the problem would be purely of the former type and not at all of the latter. But this phrase is usually taken as referring only to special groups of commodities, mostly foods, and only for the retail prices of these commodities. The general level of prices, on the other hand, means the level of all prices, whether retail, wholesale, jobbing, factory or farm prices, and of all commodities, whether of food, raw material, machinery, land, stocks, bonds, or any other goods whatsoever which are bought and sold. Now, the "cost of living" will go up and down with the general level of prices and at the same time fluctuate from special causes of its own, just as a buoy in the ocean goes up and down not only with the tides but also with the waves.

The statistics of the past indicate that the recent rise in the cost of living has been for the most part due to the general rise in prices of all kinds, and only to a small extent, if at all, to special causes applying to the retail price of foods.

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