- - Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I often wonder about inflation, because in retirement I do the shopping for my family. Each month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes what should be reassuringly accurate measures of inflation. The media always choose to publish the rate that excludes those pesky figures for fuel and food that are supposed to be so volatile. Yet, sometimes I get concerned that my life experience is more closely related to the biweekly trip to the gas station and the weekly trips to grocery stores than it is to the expeditions once a decade to buy a new car or TV.

In that regard, the following diary entry by a Treasury clerk in Richmond, in March of 1865, caught my attention. Malvina Gist wrote: “Ernestine went to market this morning and paid $10 for a steak for our breakfast. At that rate, we can only afford to take a savory smell occasionally.” Now, with a family of at least four, I know the steak had to be fairly large, and that she paid with Confederate money. I also know Richmond was not having meat sales every month or so before Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered. Therefore, comparing regular prices at the grocery store, I would pay at least as much.

From this analysis, I conclude our currency is now worth about the same as a Confederate dollar was two months before the South surrendered.


Eugene, Ore.

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