We know from contemporary accounts that flour rose from 2 francs in 1790 to 225 francs in 1795, a pair of shoes from 5 francs to 200.
While the prices of all products had increased enormously, wages for the laboring classes stagnated. Paper issue followed paper issue, until the money in circulation reached 3 billion francs in 1793… and there was still no end in sight. Unrest in the general population grew, and more and more working-class people called for capital punishment for price gauging and a 400-million-franc tax on bread for the rich.
On February 28, 1793, a mob of men and women in disguise began looting 200 stores in Paris, seizing everything they could get their hands on. Order could only be restored by buying off the mob with a 7-million-franc grant.
Shocked out of their complacence, the French government implemented new measures to raise money. One was the Forced Loan, a tax on anyone with an income over 1,000 francs. For lower-income earners, the tax was fixed at 10%, for everyone over 9,000 francs of income at 50%.
Another panic measure was the Law of Maximum, consisting of four rules which, again, supposedly served to help the working class. “First, the price of each article of necessity was to be fixed at one and one-third its price in 1790. Secondly, all transportation was to be added at a fixed rate per league. Thirdly, five per cent was to be added for the profit of the wholesaler. Fourthly, ten per cent was added for the profit of the retailer.”
The first result of the Maximum law was that sellers did everything to evade the fixed price—farmers, for example, would sell as little as possible, and so supplies became scarce, so urban citizens were put on an allowance and could only buy limited quantities of goods. Foreign goods, whose prices were much higher than the fixed upper limit, couldn’t be legally sold by merchants, many of whom went out of business. Others ended up on the guillotine for violations of the Maximum law.
“To detect goods concealed by farmers and shopkeepers, a spy system was established with a reward to the informer of one-third of the value of the goods discovered. To spread terror, the Criminal Tribunal at Strassburg was ordered to destroy the dwelling of anyone found guilty of selling goods above the price set by law. . . [If a farmer] tried to hold back his crops or cattle, alleging that he could not afford to sell them at the prices fixed by law, they were frequently taken from him by force and he was fortunate if paid even in the depreciated fiat money—fortunate, indeed, if he finally escaped with his life.”
Unfortunately, I think it will be much worse than in France. The fact that the US Dollar is the world’s reserve currency, coupled with the extreme, never before seen, imbalances, means that things will be a much, much, much worse in the very near future.
It is coming, folks…
“Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread,” — Thomas Jefferson