The Inflation of Everything

Inflation is a term most often employed to describe prices.  A too-high inflation rate results in a devalued currency. But what about the inflation of other things in our world? The Economist reports on this trend:

Price inflation remains relatively subdued in the rich world, even though central banks are busily printing money. But other types of inflation are rampant. This “panflation” needs to be recognised for the plague it has become.

Take the grossly underreported problem of “size inflation”, where clothes of any particular labelled size have steadily expanded over time. Estimates by The Economist suggest that the average British size 14 pair of women’s trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist than it was in the 1970s. In other words, today’s size 14 is really what used to be labelled a size 18; a size 10 is really a size 14. 

The article also describes the inflation of travel goods (hotel rooms and plane tickets), grades, and job titles. When everything from grades to clothing sizes are inflated in the name of avoiding harsh realities, information is compromised. “Inflation of all kinds devalues everything it infects,” explains The Economist. “It obscures information and so distorts behavior.”

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  1. Senna says:

    Size inflation in shoes has driven me absolutely crazy recently. I have quite small feet; it used to be that a women’s size five or even 5 1/2 would do me OK most of the time. Now it seems like I can only find a good fit in a girls’ size three or so, which rarely gives me the pick of styles I want. I have apparently fallen straight off of the bell curve for women’s shoes. Size inflation for clothes is also troublesome as it makes it harder to pick up on those subtle cues that you’re gaining weight without pulling out a scale and tape measure.

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  2. Caleb b says:

    I’ve seen the extensive use of the “senior” title in my office. If they can’t promote you, they’ll take your current title and add “Sr.” to it. It dosen’t mean anything, but it DOES make people feel better. People were racing to change their email signatures. I was the only one that didn’t.

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  3. Voice of Reason says:

    This could be applied to education itself as opposed to just grades, and how readily available education has led to this.

    In the 17th-19th century, going to a university meant that you were either from an extremely wealthy family, or were a prodigy of some sort, and there were only a few available.

    In the 20th century up until the 50’s-60’s, colleges were still exclusive, but there were more available than just Harvard and Oxford type schools. Going to college was still somewhat of a rarity, but it was still possible for people in the middle class to do it, and would groom you for a white collar job.

    After the 60’s to about 2000, college became pretty standard for those who did well in school, and was a measuring stick for many parents as to how well they raised their kids. Nearly any decent indoor job required a college degree, and schools of all types were available, with the best having fierce competition, and even the average having pretty hard competition.

    2000-now: the post-secondary school market is completely saturated, and everybody and their mother who wants to come out into the workforce has a Bachelors. Community colleges, online schools, for-profit schools, and fly by night schools have gauranteed that anybody with a credit card (or the ability to fill out student loan papers) can have access to a degree (whether its printed out by yourself or not). At this point, most white collar jobs even require masters, and won’t even consider applicants without college.

    My point being, college as gotten more and more accessible to the masses over the years. While acceptance graduation from a college was once an extraordinary accomplishment, and a graduate was a hot commodity, now a gradudate from a 4-year university is just another face in the crowd, and there’s a push to make the masters degree the new bachelors (in terms of exclusvity).

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