When Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and political scientist, was challenged in a television interview to give a simple explanation of price inflation, the Viennese aristocrat chose a plebeian simile: "It's like overeating and indigestion."
The interviewer settled for that because, apparently, the image was more vivid and evocative than the usual "too much money chasing too few goods."
I like Hayek's quip because it points to the pain that follows from exceeding the economy's capacity to handle rising pressures on available labor and (physical) capital resources. I also think that will help investment strategists understand the anxieties raised by the possibility that the White House and the Congress may soon agree on a budget-busting fiscal stimulus.
Here are some numbers to illustrate the feast and the hangover.
In the first half of this year, the U.S. economy was growing at an annual rate of 2 percent. Most people, including myself, are not happy with that pace of economic growth. We want more — and faster. But the sad truth is even that growth rate of 2 percent is more than the current factors of production (labor and physical capital) can deliver under conditions of non-accelerating inflation.