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Note, I'm not asking about the purpose of Inflation.

What is the purpose of the inflation operation? Who would issue this operation in a transaction? Is it a way for account holders to check if they have inflation due? Is there a single account that triggers inflation for the entire network using this operation?

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The inflation operation can be run from any valid wallet on the network. It's simply an operation to check if it is time for the inflation votes to be tallied. If the operation returns that it is time for inflation payouts it will trigger an inflation event for the whole network. This ensures that the inflation is run in a decentralized manner

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