The world's smartest central bankers, the most sophisticated investors, and the biggest and most influential markets rarely agree on much of anything, but they all seem to be signing from the same hymn sheet.
Inflation is coming, and the era of cheap money is over because we need to raise interest rates in order to tame it, say the policymakers, the bond markets and the fixed income fund managers.
There's only one problem.
Teachers have an incredible influence on our thinking, in much the same was a coach has on an athlete - as anyone who's watched their favourite NFL lose to the New England Patriots thanks to a standout performance by a player cast aside and then picked up on the cheap by Belichick & Co can attest.
Milton Friedman could be described as the Bill Belichick of modern economics, in the sense that he's influenced a generation of thinking with his 'Chicago' theories on consumption and prices (I paraphrase). In fact, only last year, his seminal quote on the nature of inflation was repeated by none other than Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank and the man whose speech warning (kind of) on inflation earlier this week ignited the biggest bond market sell-off in more than a year.
"Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon," Friedman wrote in 1970. "In the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output."
Rather than spending a great deal of time deconstructing that particular bit of nonsense, I'll just offer the following: Japan's been pumping trillions into its moribund economy for the better part of two decades in the form of zero rates, quantitative easing and asset purchase. Inflation hasn't risen past 0.5% in more than two years. The ECB's balance sheet topped $4.7 trillion earlier this month - bigger than the Fed's - and the last reading of core inflation "surged" to 1.1%. Global central banks are sitting on $25 trillion on scooped-up assets. The Fed's preferred price gauge sits stuck at 1.5%.
But if printing money hasn't ignited inflation, what will? And why are central bankers so concerned?
The answer seems to be "I don't know" and "they shouldn't" respectively.
Editors' pick: Originally published June 30.
Nearly every story TheStreet has pursued this year -- from falling oil prices to rising tech stocks, from food sector mergers to gig-economy IPOs -- share a common theme: they are, at their essence, deflationary.
Global crude prices have had their worst six-month slump in 20 years, as shale drilling offsets OPEC production cuts and consumers turn to clean-energy transportation alternatives such as Tesla. No inflation there.
Amazon's (AMZN - Get Report) purchase of Whole Foods (WFM) , which, prima facie, puts downward pressure on costs, comes amid the most significant stretch of U.S. food price deflation in 60 years. No inflation there.
Kraft Heinz's (KHC - Get Report) short-lived pursuit of Unilever (UL) , as well as Third Point's recent pressure on Nestle (NSRGY) , were both predicated on the same condition in the world's biggest food companies: the need to improve margins by cutting costs because it's increasingly difficult to pass on price increases to consumers. No inflation there.
The two most recent IPOs in the world's two biggest markets -- Delivery Hero and Blue Apron (APRN - Get Report) -- as well as the slow-burning descent of ride-sharing titan Uber, are built on the same so-called 'gig economy' pretext of outsourcing your labor costs. No inflation there.
And, collectively, nearly everything we write about in the tech economy, including Apple (APPL) and Google (GOOGL - Get Report) , centres around the idea of expanded consumer choice - where cheaper prices, broader selections and larger delivery scopes (perhaps even with drones!) are only a click away. No inflation there.
Robots are stealing our jobs, with a recent PwC report suggesting that a third of Britain's workforce could be permanently sent home over the next 20 years thanks to the rise of automation and artificial intelligence. Robots don't ask for raises, so there's no inflation there, either.
Friedman called inflation "the one form of tax that can be imposed without legislation".
That might have been true once, but the fact of the matter is, we've all been given a massive cut.
And we didn't even have to vote on it.
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