Ernest Hemingway Had a Few Thoughts on Hyperinflation

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By the author of The Faithful Prepper The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications,

I’m not a big fan of Ernest Hemingway. Never have been. I enjoyed his The Old Man and the Sea, but I just found everything else that he ever wrote to be depressing and without any sense of closure. A Farewell to Arms? Bleh. For Whom the Bell Tolls? Bleck.

Give me Mark Twain any day. You can have the Hemingway.

But a friend of mine likes Hemingway, and after talking with him a bit, I decided to give ol’ Ernie another go. I picked up a copy of By-Line: Ernest Hemingway by William White, and there are actually a number of things that Hemingway had to say about life in post-World War 1 Germany that I thought may be of interest to the reader of Organic Prepper.

While I knew Hemingway as a novelist, I wasn’t familiar with the fact that he was a war correspondent for some time – spending years of his life traveling across the globe covering various current events.

German inflation from a street-level view 

Ernest Hemingway
German children playing with the mark, 1923. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In September 1922, Hemingway related the story to the Toronto Star of an old man in Kehl, Germany, who likely had his life savings wiped out by the rampant inflation of the German mark. As a result, the man wasn’t even able to afford to buy an apple.

He also told the tale of a bakery in Kehl that was constantly swamped with Frenchmen. The French would travel across the border to take advantage of the incredibly low prices they would find in German restaurants due to German hyperinflation. The baker and his workers were sullen. Why? Because though they baked as fast as they could, their ovens were still unable to beat inflation.

It didn’t matter what they did – they were going to be screwed, and they knew it. And the end result would be their becoming men unable to afford a single apple. (One questions their wisdom by continuing to bake.)

These were the kind of boots-on-the-ground stories of post-WW1 Germany that I had been looking for for so long. Hemingway provided them, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Pushing a boulder down the hill of inflation…

In May of 1923, Hemingway returned to Germany once more – this time to Offenburg, Baden. Hyperinflation had hit Germany so hard by this point that Hemingway noted a glass of red wine now cost roughly the same as a night in the deluxe hotel he had stayed in just a year prior.

German money had become largely worthless.

But it wasn’t just the German mark that was hit with inflation. Hemingway noted that the Russian ruble had seen the same, stating, “Russian money had been printed in million-ruble denominations as fast as the presses could work in order to wipe out the value of the old imperial money and in consequence, the money holding class.”

In other words, inflation was created in early communist Russia with intent: to wipe out savings.

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war.” 

Ernest Hemingway

By 1935, Hemingway was able to tell that war was on the way – and not a minor skirmish either. He saw war coming on the scale of The Great War. There were too many signs to think otherwise. A growing angst and anger throughout Europe was most certainly part of what he saw – he was run out of parts of Germany during this time for being an outsider.

But it was the presence of inflation that caused him to see the dark clouds on the horizon. “Military strategy is inseparable from economic strategy,” he would say in 1941. The two – war and inflation – were tightly linked together, and Hemingway knew this.

And from this, I believe that we, too, can learn that one can look at the greater world around us and come to conclusions. What do we see? Are the symptoms of war beginning to show themselves? Can we foretell the logical conclusions of the events we see play out around us on a daily basis?

Hemingway thought so. And he used this belief to read the world around him to tell what he saw coming. And at least in the occurrence of World War 2, Hemingway was right.

(Don’t want to starve? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out.)

Who do we ship over?

As Hemingway noted, war often follows inflation. And he had a particular view of war that I greatly enjoyed. “No one man nor group of men incapable of fighting or exempt from fighting should in any way be given the power, no matter how gradually it is given to them, to put this country or any country into war.”

It’s hard to argue with that, is it not? It’s akin to an old man picking a fight with a burly Hell’s Angel in a bar and then sending in his grandson to fight for him. 

I would say that The Founding Fathers largely agreed with this concept. The system of checks and balances they created with the American system of government (when followed) serve as a great means of keeping people from being able to arbitrarily decree a state of war.

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Ernest Hemingway

“No European country is our friend nor has been since the last war, and no country but one’s own is worth fighting for.”

He was a bit of a hypocrite here – he did fight in the Spanish Civil War – but the above words echo what George Washington had to say in his Farewell Address. Why get involved in the entanglements of other nations? The Monroe Doctrine – where America stayed out of the affairs of Europe and refused to let them mess with affairs in the Western Hemisphere – worked very well (until World War 1, anyway).

Hemingway the historian

In short, I’m still not a fan of Hemingway’s novels. Reading an anthology of his didn’t change my mind in that regard. But I did appreciate his having written down the historical events that he lived through. There are lessons to be learned here if we are willing to look close. And we best learn them while we still can. On that note, here are some tips for surviving hyperinflation.

Do you enjoy Hemingway’s books? What are your thoughts on his spin as a historian? Share your opinions in the comments.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has three published books, The Faithful Prepper The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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Aden Tate

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  • Coincidentally, I’ve been reading some Hemingway and just finished The Sun Also Rises. If nothing else, he was an astute observer of life in his time. His literary style may not suit everyone, but he seems to be a competent reporter of then-current events as he experienced them. My thought would be to pay heed.

    BTW, I give The Sun Also Rises 4 stars out of 5 for its portrayal of the effete upper classes (and hangers-on) of the fading British Empire.

  • The hopelessness of hyperinflation and hunger does pre-stage war.

    One should look at his article and understand what happened in Spain is coming home to America.

    Prepare for fiat moneys becoming worthless as hunger and angry-scared folks seeking food. Even decent neighbors will go feral when their kids say “Daddy I’m HUNGRY”

    During the Weimar Germany Hyperinflation rich folks traded family silver for smuggled in sacks of coal and potatoes.

    Famine wars, or as Michael Yon says PanFamWar.

  • I agree with you. I didn’t care for his books. I read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, about the Spanish Civil war. From the book: “Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in their facts but intentionally misleading.” Looks like not much has changed since then. ( I think he was a socialist at that time)

  • Actually, WWII created huge amounts of debt…but it was used to produce the things needed to conduct wars. When it was over, the US/European balance sheets were carrying more debt than they ever had, until today.

    How was that debt resolved? By inflating the currency and making the debt seem insignificant.

    The question today is about the clear obvious desire TPTB have to replace the current system with a digital global currency system. Reducing the 98% to poverty seems like Step 1.

  • I think Hemmingway point is well taken, but I do not think it covers the basics. Although Hyper Inflation is one one the common maladies often leading to war. The basics is whatever causes the social unrest and discord. Social unrest and discord creates anger and that anger often creates change.
    Since the group or government causing this anger to occur does not want it pointed at them, they point the focus of the anger elsewhere.
    Hitler first blamed the Jew, the Communist’s and then Europe for the WW1 reparations settlement, Communists blamed the rich capitalists, or certain ethnic groups, etc.
    Here in the US, they have long shifted the blame to the other party or the illegal immigrant problem, or recently various other outlets(Climate change, Covid 19) for our anger. Any scapegoat will do. War is always a great distraction.
    Any misdirection away from those who are really creating the problems by their mismanagement or by pushing their social changes upon us, is the goal.

    For instance Hyper inflation in Venezuela did not lead to a regional war, so the premise that it must, is wrong. Many African nations have suffered the from hyperinflation and it did not create a regional or world war. Hyper inflation is just a symptom of the problem, it may in some cases result in war or civil unrest, but not always. It depends upon how well the anger it generates can be diffused or focused elsewhere.

    • Mic, it’s a matter of scale. Hyperinflation in your family’s game of Monopoly is amusing up to the point of arguments. Venezuela’s importance to the economy of the world is minor until an American Sock Puppet is forced to beg for their oil (and didn’t get it). African nations under Hyperinflation kill off other tribes with machetes. Again, in the worldwide level not that important.

      When major economies fall to hyperinflation THEN it gets worldwide. The old saying when America gets a sniffle, the world gets the flu has some truth but now more reversed due to our outsourcing our industry.

      Another old saying will be proven correct soon enough

      9 missed meals until anarchy. When “Mommy I’m HUNGRY” is the song of the land reasonable people will go feral.

      Protect your families. One skipped dining out meal will buy a 5-gallon pail, a lid and enough dry beans and rice to fill it.

  • War most often seems to be the ruling classes answer to economic problems. As has been pointed out, the end of the wars always seems to leave huge debts, but during the war the governments have every excuse to spend as much as they want – with the thought being that they will pay it off later once the “crisis” is averted.

    We don’t have to go back to Weimar Germany, or pre communist Russia to see this. How about looking at the U.S. in 2000. The dotcom bubble had burst, and the economy was looking shaky, and suddenly a small, up to that time, rather insignificant terrorist group gave us the excuse to engage in a 20 year “War on Terror”. Once more the Military Industrial Complex reaped the benefits, but so did the average Joe as the economy was artificially boosted into overdrive.

    As was pointed out above the hyperinflation in Venezuela and in African countries has not led to major conflicts. The reason for this is, in my opinion, is rather brutal: “They don’t have anything we desperately need, and generally speaking we don’t give a shit about them.” It should also be pointed out that it has led to internal strife in these countries. Many African countries have existed in a virtual state of famine, disease, and war for decades.

    Where we see larger, regional, or even world wars tends to be when first world nations, or the movers and shakers of the time, experience economic disasters. Through history these countries have changed, as some fade from prominence, and others rise. Germany, in the last hundred years has always had a major impact on Europe. Today we see the U.S., China and Russia as major players on the world stage, but this to can shift, and many small “insignificant “ countries could rise in importance in this new world of globalization. Taiwan could become the most important country in the world as they produce the majority of microchips for the electronics that now control our world. The Ukraine, even without being a major supplier of wheat and fertilizer, supplies about 70% of the worlds neon (used in neon lasers to etch those microchips).

    Getting back to Hemingway. When he was writing, hyperinflation was one of the few things that would affect an entire country. Whether it’s hyperinflation, food shortages, power outages, or something else, anytime an entire population becomes angry, afraid and desperate the stage is set for war.

  • Love Ernest Hemingway. His writing inspires and forces introspection. It can seem brooding and somewhat dark, but what man doesn’t brood? Alone with no distractions and forced to take stock of oneself and the world we occupy during these times will make any person seem dour. Ernest, wrote openly about his thoughts and fears. Glamour and violent truth along with his history changing prose are his hallmarks and set him aside in the history of American literature as one of the greatest authors we ever produced.

    Interesting that the author likes Twain but not Hemingway. Both are very similar and honest in their writing and both have a knack for making readers uncomfortable with the honesty of their writing.

    A book written by him “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” remains one of my favorite short stories.

  • Hemingways writing was real life definitely! Bell Tolls had the closure of tragic death.

  • Thank you Organic Prepper. The only thing I wish these kind of articles could do is prevent the repetition of history, over and over and over again. It’s really mind boggling, how infinitely stupid people are that are in charge.

  • We can not stop the hyper inflation that is likely.
    We can somewhat prepare for it.
    Stock up. become as self sufficient as possible.
    Convert your depreciating currency to anything with long term value.
    food, Ammo, drugs & medical supplies, gold silver, farm land.

  • “No European country is our friend nor has been since the last war, and no country but one’s own is worth fighting for.”
    He was a bit of a hypocrite here – he did fight in the Spanish Civil War ….”

    Sorry to deflate your perception of Hemingway, but:

    No, Hemingway did NOT fight in the Spanish Civil War.
    Hemingway did NOT fight in ANY war.
    Hemingway was a fraud, a fake, a liar, and a traitor. His entire persona was built on a foundation of faking and lying. He compounded his fraud by spying for the KGB, betraying his country and the capitalist system that made him wealthy.

    He was a Red Cross volunteer in WW1 Italy. He was a coffee server, in a refreshment booth set up away from the front lines. An errant shell struck near his snack booth. He was struck in the legs by stray shrapnel.
    After treatment (during which he fell in love with a nurse), the faker returned to his home in Chicago. He spun the story of being a wounded war hero, strutting around town on crutches in his uniform.

    His novel about WW1, with a wounded war hero falling in love with a nurse, made him famous. His lies about his war experience made him seem like “the real deal.” He was not.

    In the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway, who was working for the KGB/Comintern, did NOT fight. He hung out in hotels, drank, chased women, and babbled. He idolized the communists and romanticized their brutal, anti-human beliefs. His only fighting was in producing propaganda, or covert influence. By hiding his work for the communists, he influenced people to trust his word.

    In the run-up to WW2, a drunken and deranged Hemingway, already suspected of treason by the FBI, fled to Cuba. He pretended to be “patrolling for German subs” there. That was another fantasy and lie. He just went out in his boat with guns and liquor. No German subs.

    In WW2, he showed up in France, a celebrity with money and political support. He pretended again to be a warrior, hanging out as close to the front lines as his money would allow.

    When you view his writing–fiction or non-fiction or journalism–in the light of his treason and fraud, there’s a lot less reason to listen to anything he says, much less trust or value it.

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