It is one of the country’s worst economic crises in decades, and for Argentina that is saying a lot.
Countries around the world are trying to deal with rising prices, but perhaps no major economy understands how to live with inflation better than Argentina.
The country has struggled with rapidly rising prices for much of the last 50 years. During a chaotic period in the late 1980s, inflation reached an almost unbelievable 3,000 percent and people scrambled for groceries before clerks armed with price-tagging guns could roam the stores. Now high inflation is back, exceeding 30 percent every year since 2018.
To understand how Argentines get by, we spent two weeks in and around Buenos Aires, talking to economists, politicians, farmers, restaurateurs, real estate agents, hairdressers, taxi drivers, money changers, street performers, street vendors, and the unemployed.
The economy isn’t always the best topic of conversation, but in Argentina it cheers up just about everyone, eliciting curses, deep sighs and informed opinions on monetary policy. One woman gleefully showed off her stash for a wad of dollars (an old ski jacket), another explained how she stuffed cash into her bra to buy a condo, and a Venezuelan waitress wondered if she had immigrated to the right country. .
One thing became very clear: Argentines have developed a very unusual relationship with their money.
They spend their pesos as fast as they get them. They buy everything from televisions to potato peelers on installments. They don’t trust the banks. They hardly use the credits. And after years of constant price increases, they have little idea how much things should cost.
Argentina shows that people will find a way to adjust to years of high inflation, living in an economy that is impossible to fathom almost anywhere else in the world. Life is especially manageable for those who have the means to make that chaotic system work. But all those amazing alternative solutions mean that the few who have held political power, during the years of economic hardship, have paid a real price for their decisions.