The price of noodles in China: A parable of inflation & deflation

I originally posted this story to the very nice bitsofnews.com. I’ll try to write for them regularly, and will cross-post my contributions here.


China gets a lot of attention for its policy of keeping its currency cheap with respect to other countries’ money largely by printing local cash to buy up foreign exchange. Usually when countries ramp up the printing press in support of some state policy or another, the result is high inflation. Not so in China, which — so far — has been expanding its money supply at a heady clip with only very moderate inflation. But perhaps this story in today’s New York Times is the canary in the coal mine?

Noodle Prices Rise, Along With Chinese Tempers

…So in February, as noodle patrons across the city arrived for their morning fix, an unexpected notice awaited them: The price of a bowl of Lanzhou pulled beef noodles was going up. A large bowl, once only 27 cents, would now cost almost 31 cents… “Beef Noodle Price Hike Touches Off Nerves Everywhere!” declared The Western Economic Daily, a feisty local paper.

But, wait a minute, not so fast…

Money and debt

What is money? Much more on that soon, it gets to the heart of what I am thinking about these days, and what I hope to write about on these pages. I think we’re about to have something of a crisis with respect to the meaning of money, and that the resolution of this should not be old bromides like the gold standard, but something completely different.

In the meantime, on Brad Setser’s wonderful blog of which I’m a breathless groupie, regular commenters HZ and DF touched upon the question. I wrote a long response, then decided it wasn’t really appropriate to Brad’s comments, as my response was long and has nothing to do with Brad’s main post. So, I’ll put my mini-essay here, as a teaser for the much more that is to come on the subject.

Morning

In Baltimore, it’s morning, but I’m not in Baltimore. It’s 1:30 pm here in Constanta, at the edge of darkness, or at least the Black Sea, and I having a lazy beginning to a day which, after all, still has an agenda. My finacée, R—, has not been feeling well. We stayed in bed together this morning, and after a while we both felt better. There are consolations to this gypsy’s life I’ve made for myself.

But it gets to me, it always gets to me, and I must go and try to hawk my family’s “villa”. Somewhere, there must be the perfect trading company or somesuch that would love to make a home of the finest office space in Constanta, at the very heart of the city with original hardwood floors and spectacular views of the beach. My charge has remained vacant 5 months, and I am embarrassed. Oh, dear reader, you wouldn’t happen to be a multinational businessperson expanding into Central Europe? Oh well. I thought not.

To the realtors’ offices then, to put a fire under all their asses. I am one to talk, here in bed and it’s going on 2 pm, but I have no great impression of the work ethic of the Constantan realtor. Of course they preen with the status symbols of the age, the long, dark coats and gleaming silver mobile phones, but it seems to me they put up ads and wait for phone calls, and atata tot — that’s all. It’s not enough, of course. So I will make myself much pushier.

R— is in the bathroom, primping and powdering herself in long rituals. She will never be persuaded, though I have tried, I have, that all this work is entirely unnecessary. So I wait my turn, to use the can, take a quick shower, then off we go, to lunch, to the realtors.

Blockages

When I was a child, I was told that I was a good writer. That always seemed to me like a mixed blessing, because writing is something that mostly I did out of obligation, for school or for some other purpose. There were those times when I wrote because I wished to write. But those were usually times when something was wrong.

Interfluidity is born at a moment where I feel a spontaneous desire, perhaps even some desperation, to write. Now as it was always, I am provoked into writing because something is wrong.

Something is not flowing. Something is blocked. At one level, this is something akin to writers’ block. But it is goes beyond that, because it was never my ambition to be a writer, exactly. At a broad level, I feel I have something to contribute, there is something that I’m supposed to do or have done, and I’ve not succeeded in doing it. Interfluidity is my attempt somehow to flow, to get all the things I am thinking and trying out there, even on a page made of electrons and other peoples’ eyes.

I’m skeptical of myself these days. My recent track record has not been one of success. There are a thousand projects started and never quite completed. (This is my second blog, here’s the first.) I’ve taken foolish risks financially, and therefore foolish losses. I’ve tried, so far without success, to reintegrate myself into the academic world. I’m feeling closed-in, stuck, at a loss. So here’s a new page, upon which I will try yet again to flow.

I am not a humble person. There are things I have to contribute that could really matter, that could be revolutionary even. But so long as it all remains closed-up in the hollow cavity of my skull, who gives a shit? Interfluidity.

New Beginnings

This is a placeholder, some words, forgettable, regrettable, as I’ve nothing to do or to say but to try to get the look right, the graphics up, all that jazz.

But it is also I suppose a new beginning, to something, a forgetting of escapades and failures past, a clean path to new misadventures. Let’s see where it goes.