The Gold Standard Fallacy.

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A friend who is an ardent Ron Paul supporter, upon reading that I’m not a fan of Paul’s desire to retreat back to the gold standard, suggested that I watch this video.

(here is the transcript)

Sorry, but it’s just not as simple as a six minute interview. There is a lot of history being left out. For instance, Paul says this:

“I would like to have a transition period. Just legalize gold money, and allow us to use gold and silver as legal tender. And we can work our way back.”

Um… Andrew Jackson did that very thing at the end of his administration with the Specie Circular Act. The net effect was two-fold. First, it accelerated the devaluation rate of paper currency, and, because gold and silver are considered rare commodities, both of these created a tremendous rise in inflation. The depression that followed lasted for two years, one of the longest economic downturn in the history of the United States at that time. Remember that at this time, very very few of this countries citizens speculated in the market; most were country farmers and not a robust part of the economic system. When you take that into account, that today’s economy covers a much broader scope of industries AND of people directly inserted into the economy, the same depression that Jackson triggered would be as horrific as the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Speaking of, some blame our removal from the gold standard as the reason for the Great Depression. That is nonsense. Though financial reforms of 1913 put us on track to become independent of gold (see the near financial collapse of 1907 to understand why) we did not actually remove ourselves from that monetary system until 1932. In the 1920’s, England, which had gone off the gold standard right after WW 1, went back on the gold standard in 1925. That soon led England into economic depression. Winston Churchill, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time and who made the decision, considered it one of his great mistakes in hindsight.

Switching back to gold as a currency anchor has a number of fundamental problems.

* The value of the commodity at the current time, if adopted, would cause massive inflation as the paper currency would have to be adjusted to the current value of gold.

* Because gold is a commodity, uncertainty in the commodities market can cause its value to fluxuate and can be easily affected by speculators.

* There is not nearly enough gold that has been mined that could cover the currency (another problem encountered by Europe in the 1920’s)

* A return to the gold standard would cause a massive rush to increase the mining of gold. We know where more gold is, but right now it is exhaustively expensive to get at (there are several potential spots up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range near where I live). A return to gold would create a temporary gold rush, as companies would be willing to expend those resources to get that gold. But soon enough you would reach equilibrium, and gold production would taper off. The very same thing caused yet another depression in 1851, after the flow of gold from the California Gold Rush of 1849 ran out.

* Finally, countries that are on the gold standard jump off at the drop of a proverbial hat. All of Europe was on the gold standard pre-World War 1. As soon as the war broke out, they all ditched it and started printing money to pay for the war. And that is not a one-time thing, nor is it done only for wars. All countries have through history behaved in the same fashion. If we decided that going to Mars was a good and proper thing for the US to do, we would print money in a heartbeat to finance it!

I’m sorry, but returning to the gold standard would probably end up being worse than staying on the crappy system we have now.

There is more to say on this, but I have other things I have to get done.


One more thing. Paul also says this:

I wish we could do this overnight and we could do a few things like repealing the executive order of Nixon but that in and of itself wouldn’t be enough.

We know what to do. We did it once after the Civil War. We went from a paper standard back to a gold standard, and the event was not that dramatic. Today the big problem is both the conservatives and the liberals have a big appetite for big government for different reasons. Therefore they need the Fed to tide them over and monetize the debt.

So if you do not get rid of that appetite, it’s going to be more difficult. But the transition is not that difficult. You have to get your house in order, you have to balance the budget, you have to not run up debt, and you have to promise to not print any more money.

That’s what they did after the Civil War and it was accepted and we went right back to the gold standard.

He has things backwards. The nation only went back to the gold standard AFTER we had gotten most of the war debt paid off, and Congress returned to the now long jettisoned notion of balancing the budget and living within our means. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Remember, Andrew Jackson left office with not only a balanced government budget, but also had retired national debt to boot. Yet his adherence to gold policy helped lead to one of the worst economic crashes in our history. Plus, with the completion of the intercontinental railroad and the continued expansion into western territories, the United States economy was primed for growth. Keep in mind we are living in a very very different time than that of the Civil War period. Maybe my myopic condition has gotten worse (I am in may later 40’s and that’s not improbable I must admit!) and maybe I need to have my glasses checked, but the last time I looked at things, I see nothing on the economic horizon that will prime this nations economy in any similar fashion, do you?

More info on the economics of the Civil War here.

2 Comments to “The Gold Standard Fallacy.”

  1. By Kurt, January 4, 2012 @ 5:24 am

    I think getting rid of the ‘imperial’ mindset of waging war against anyone and everyone would be a tremendous start in actually paying down the debt and improving life here at home. Trillions of dollars are wasted annually on this foolish path of infinite war and empire (of course the Rothschild and Rockefeller banking clans love this!!!). Ending the phony wars, closing the Fed and putting the monetary control back in the hands of the US Treasury would improve the situation greatly. (The Fed has become nothing more than an elaborate counterfeiting scheme that is neither federal nor reserve….). Though the gold standard had it’s drawbacks, it did give currency real value. At the rate we’re going, we may be using US dollars as TP soon when hyper-inflation hits…..or perhaps papering our walls with it like Sting did in his ‘Fortress Around Your Heart’ video, LOL!!! There is only one candidate that isn’t owned by the corporate elite and truly desires to put things back on track, Ron Paul. The rest of the field have proven themselves time and again to be mere representatives of more ‘elite’ fundamentalism that will stick to the program of war, waste, and continued destruction of our economy and way of life.

  2. By Sonicfrog, January 4, 2012 @ 8:03 am

    “Though the gold standard had it’s drawbacks, it did give currency real value.”

    I was hoping someone would bring that up. What is “Real Value”. How does gold get its value? It gets it value based on two things – scarcity and demand. It is not some magical thing that happens independent of human judgement. In other words, humans put a value on gold, just as they place a specific value on money. As I demonstrated before, the gold standard is a farce, because when governments decide they need more money, they find ways to go right around it.And when they don’t the inflexibility has led to near economic catastrophe. Please read more on the history of both the 1893 and 1907 bank collapses. And don’t read things that have an agenda – either pro or anti-gold standard. Find real uncolored histories and decide for yourself.

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