From inflation to insurrection

Costly food and energy are fostering global unrest

Many governments are too indebted to cushion the blow to living standards

The Turkish lira has fallen by almost 25 per cent this year. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
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"Money no longer had any value in Istanbul," laments the narrator of My Name Is Red, a novel by Orhan Pamuk set in the 16th century. "Bakeries that once sold large… loaves of bread for one silver coin now baked loaves half the size for the same price." The royal mint was slyly reducing the amount of silver in each coin. When the Janissaries (an elite military force) found that their wages had been debased, "they rioted, besieging Our Sultan's palace as if it were an enemy fortress".

Galloping inflation afflicts Turkey again today. Officially it is 73 per cent, but everyone suspects it is higher. Mr Pamuk, a Nobel laureate for literature, says he has "never seen such a dramatic rise in prices". He makes no predictions about what the political consequences might be. To criticise Turkey's modern sultan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would be risky. But from his book-strewn flat overlooking the Bosporus, Mr Pamuk observes that his compatriots are reacting with "shock, surprise and anger".

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