Hyperinflation is always and everywhere a political phenomenon.

It happens after wars or revolutions, when governments have to print the money they need because there’s not much of an economy left to tax—which brings us to Ukraine. It had a revolution, it has a war now, and it’s all but broke. Inflation is officially 28.5 percent, but, according to Johns Hopkins professor Steve Hanke, it’s really more like 272 percent. And that’s only going to get worse as long as Ukraine’s currency does.

It’s hard to overstate how challenged Ukraine is. Its economy has actually shrunk since communism ended in 1991. Or since 1992. Or even 1993. That’s because communism never really did end. Ukraine just traded party bosses for oligarchs. Sure, it privatized companies and introduced markets, but Ukraine didn’t shed its Soviet-era corruption or inefficiency. There was barely any rule of law, tax rates had to be jacked up to make up for all the wink-wink, nod-nod tax evasion, and, as a result, even more of the economy entered the shadows. The IMF estimates that Ukraine’s underground—and non-tax-paying—economy is as much as 50 percent of GDP.

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