From June through August of this past year I backpacked through southern Africa, and the poverty of Zimbabwe really struck me. It’s a country graced with incredible natural beauty, and cursed by decades of misrule. Zimbabwe suffered from the second worst hyperinflation on record; it reached an absurd 231,000,000% in the summer of 2008. To put it in real terms, that means that the price of goods doubled every 25 hours. To look at it another way, if you started with 100k today, tomorrow your purchasing power would be cut to 50k. A week later, you’d be down to 7k, and within a month, you would essentially be unable to buy anything.
Reading about an indeterminate number of zeros being added monthly to price tags in a country on another continent is one thing; listening to a woman tell you her child died because the local hospital couldn’t afford to stock simple antibiotics is another entirely. The emotional weight of her story was such that for the rest of the day, I wandered around the town feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Surely there must be a way to prevent something like this from happening again?
The hyperinflation that crippled the Zimbabwean economy was not the product of some greater, unstoppable economic force. It was the direct result of currency manipulation and irresponsible printing of money. The Mugabe government did so to finance wars in the Congo, pay off debts, and inflate the salaries of high-ranking military and government officials.