01/04/2024 lewrockwell.com  13 min 🇬🇧 #245932

Bring Back Gold!

By  Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

April 1, 2024

In these days of rampant inflation, it's imperative that we return to the gold standard-and the real thing too. By this I mean the classical gold standard, not the so-called "gold exchange" standard, and with no fractional reserve banking, just as the great Murray Rothbard wanted. In what follows, I'll discuss some of the economic issues below, but it's important to realize that it's a moral issue as well.

I spoke about the difference between the classical gold standard and the fake gold standard. This might seem a technical issue, but it's one of vital importance. Joe Salerno, the leading contemporary Austrian School authority on monetary economics and Academic Vice President of the Mises Institute, explains:

"The historical embodiment of monetary freedom is the gold standard. The era of its greatest flourishing was not coincidentally the 19th century, the century in which classical liberal ideology reigned, a century of unprecedented material progress and peaceful relations between nations. Unfortunately, the monetary freedom represented by the gold standard, along with many other freedoms of the classical liberal era, was brought to a calamitous end by World War I.

Also, and not so coincidentally, this was the"War to Make the World Safe for Mass Democracy,"a political system which we have all learned by now is the great enemy of freedom in all its social and economic manifestations.

Now, it is true that the gold standard did not disappear overnight, but limped along in weakened form into the early 1930s. But this was not the pre-1914 classical gold standard, in which the actions of private citizens operating on free markets ultimately controlled the supply and value of money and governments had very little influence.

Under this monetary system, if people in one nation demanded more money to carry out more transactions or because they were more uncertain of the future, they would export more goods and financial assets to the rest of the world, while importing less. As a result, additional gold would flow in through a surplus in the balance of payments increasing the nation's money supply.

Sometimes, private banks tried to inflate the money supply by issuing additional bank notes and deposits, called"fiduciary media,"promising to pay gold but unbacked by gold reserves. They lent these notes and deposits to either businesses or the government. However, as soon as the borrowers spent these additional fractional-reserve notes and deposits, domestic incomes and prices would begin to rise.

As a result, foreigners would reduce their purchases of the nation's exports, and domestic residents would increase their spending on the relatively cheap foreign imports. Gold would flow out of the coffers of the nation's banks to finance the resulting trade deficit, as the excess paper notes and checks were returned to their issuers for redemption in gold.

To check this outflow of gold reserves, which made their depositors very nervous, the banks would contract the supply of fiduciary media bringing about a monetary deflation and an ensuing depression.

Temporarily chastened by the experience, banks would refrain from again expanding credit for a while. If the Treasury tried to issue convertible notes only partially backed by gold, as it occasionally did, it too would face these consequences and be forced to restrain its note issue within narrow bounds.

Thus, governments and commercial banks under the gold standard did not have much influence over the money supply in the long run. The only sizable inflations that occurred during the 19th century did so during wartime when almost all belligerent nations would"go off the gold standard."They did so in order to conceal the staggering costs of war from their citizens by printing money rather than raising taxes to pay for it.

For example, Great Britain experienced a substantial inflation at the beginning of the 19th century during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, when it had suspended the convertibility of the British pound into gold. Likewise, the United States and the Confederate States of America both suffered a devastating hyperinflation during the War for Southern Independence, because both sides issued inconvertible Treasury notes to finance budget deficits. It is because politicians and their privileged banks were unable to tamper with and inflate a gold money that prices in the United States and in Great Britain at the close of the 19th century were roughly the same as they were at the beginning of the century.

Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, all belligerent nations departed from the gold standard. Needless to say by the war's end the paper fiat currencies of all these nations were in the throes of inflations of varying degrees of severity, with the German hyperinflation that culminated in 1923 being the worst. To put their currencies back in order and to restore the public's confidence in them, one country after another reinstituted the gold standard during the 1920s.

Unfortunately, the new gold standard of the 1920s was fundamentally different from the classical gold standard. For one thing, under this latter version, gold coin was not used in daily transactions. In Great Britain, for example, the Bank of England would only redeem pounds in large and expensive bars of gold bullion. But gold bullion was mainly useful for financing international trade transactions.

Other countries such as Germany and the smaller countries of Central and Eastern Europe used gold-convertible foreign currencies such as the US dollar or the pound sterling as reserves for their own domestic currencies. This was called the gold-exchange standard.

While the US dollar was technically redeemable in honest-to-goodness gold coin, banks no longer held reserves in gold coin but in Federal Reserve notes. All gold reserves were centralized, by law, in the hands of the Fed and banks were encouraged to use Fed notes to cash checks and pay for checking and savings deposit withdrawals. This meant that very little gold coin circulated among the public in the 1920s, and residents of all nations came increasingly to view the paper IOUs of their central banks as the ultimate embodiment of the dollar, franc, pound, etc.

This state of affairs gave governments and their central banks much greater leeway for manipulating their national money supplies. The Bank of England, for example, could expand the amount of paper claims to gold pounds through the banking system without fearing a run on its gold reserves for two reasons.

Foreign countries on the gold exchange standard would be willing to pile up the paper pounds that flowed out of Great Britain through its balance of payments deficit and not demand immediate conversion into gold. In fact by issuing their own currency to tourists and exporters in exchange for the increasing quantities of inflated paper pounds, foreign central banks were in effect inflating their own money supplies in lock-step with the Bank of England. This drove up prices in their own countries to the inflated level attained by British prices and put an end to the British deficits.

In effect, this system enabled countries such as Great Britain and the United States to export monetary inflation abroad and to run"a deficit without tears"- that is, a balance-of-payments deficit that does not involve a loss of gold.

But even if gold reserves were to drain out of the vaults of the Bank of England or the Fed to foreign nations, British and US citizens would be disinclined, either by law or by custom, to put further pressure on their respective central banks to stop inflating by threatening bank runs to rid themselves of their depreciating notes and retrieve their rightful property left with the banks for safekeeping.

Unfortunately, contemporary economists and economic historians do not grasp the fundamental difference between the hard-money classical gold standard of the 19th century and the inflationary phony gold standard of the 1920s." See  here.

Many people think that even if 100% reserve banking is desirable as an ideal, it would never work in practice. How could banks stay in business if they couldn't lend their checking deposits? Doesn't the supply of money need to expand as the economy grows? Murray Rothbard demolishes these objections with characteristic force:

"Certain standard objections have been raised against 100 percent banking and against 100 percent gold currency in particular. One generally accepted argument against any form of 100 percent banking I find particularly and strikingly curious: that under 100 percent reserves, banks would not be able to continue profitably in business. I see no reason why banks should not be able to charge their customers for their services, as do all other useful businesses. This argument points to the supposedly enormous benefits of banking; if these benefits were really so powerful, then surely the consumers would be willing to pay a service charge for them, just as they pay for traveler's checks now. If they were not willing to pay the costs of the banking business as they pay the costs of all other industries useful to them, then that would demonstrate the advantages of banking to have been highly overrated. At any rate, there is no reason why banking should not take its chance in the free market with every other industry.

The major objection against 100 percent gold is that this would allegedly leave the economy with an inadequate money supply. Some economists advocate a secular increase of the supply of money in accordance with some criterion: population growth, growth of volume of trade, and the like; others wish the money supply to be adjusted to provide a stable and fixed price level. In both cases, of course, the adjusting and manipulating could only be done by government. These economists have not fully absorbed the great monetary lesson of classical economics: that the supply of money essentially does not matter. Money performs its function by being a medium of exchange; any change in its supply, therefore, will simply adjust itself in the purchasing power of the money unit, that is, in the amount of other goods that money will be able to buy. An increase in the supply of money means merely that more units of money are doing the social work of exchange and therefore that the purchasing power of each unit will decline. Because of this adjustment, money, in contrast to all other useful commodities employed in production or consumption, does not confer a social benefit when its supply increases. The only reason that increased gold mining is useful, in fact, is that the large supply of gold will satisfy more of the non-monetary uses of the gold commodity.

There is therefore never any need for a larger supply of money (aside from the non-monetary uses of gold or silver). An increased supply of money can only benefit one set of people at the expense of another set, and, as we have seen, that is precisely what happens when government or the banks inflate the money supply. And that is precisely what my proposed reform is designed to eliminate. There can, incidentally, never be an actual monetary"shortage,"since the very fact that the market has established and continues to use gold or silver as a monetary commodity shows that enough of it exists to be useful as a medium of exchange.

The number of people, the volume of trade, and all other alleged criteria are therefore merely arbitrary and irrelevant with respect to the supply of money. And as for the ideal of the stable price level, apart from the grave flaws of deciding on a proper index, there are two points that are generally overlooked. In the first place, the very ideal of a stable price level is open to challenge. Hoarding, as we have indicated, is always attacked; and yet it is the freely expressed and desired action on the market. People often wish to increase the real value of their cash balances, or to raise the purchasing power of each dollar. There are many reasons why they might wish to do so. Why should they not have this right, as they have other rights on the free market? And yet only by their"hoarding"taking effect through lower prices can they bring about this result. Only by demanding more cash balances and thus lowering prices can the dollars assume a higher real value. I see no reason why government manipulators should be able to deprive the consuming public of this right.

Second, if people really had an overwhelming desire for a stable price level, they would negotiate all their contracts in some agreed-upon price index. The fact that such a voluntary"tabular standard"has rarely been adopted is an apt enough commentary on those stable-price-level enthusiasts who would impose their ambitions by government coercion.

Money, it is often said, should function as a yardstick, and therefore its value should be stabilized and fixed. Not its value, however, but its weight should be eternally fixed, as are all other weights. Its value, like all other values, should be left to the judgment, estimation and ultimate decision of every individual consumer." See  here.

If we want a true gold standard, can we get back to it? Of course we can. The inflationary monetary policy we have today is the key to the financial elites control over us. Without it brain-dead Biden and his gang of neocon controllers couldn't function. We must prevail, and we can prevail. As I said in 2002,

"The power to create money is the most ominous power ever bestowed on any human being. This power is rightly criminalized when it is exercised by private individuals, and even today, everyone knows why counterfeiting is wrong and knavish. Far fewer are aware of the role of the federal government, the Fed, and the fiat dollar in making possible the largest counterfeiting operation in human history, which is called the world dollar standard. Fewer still understand the connection between this officially sanctioned criminality and the business cycle, the rise and collapse of the stock market, and the continued erosion of the value of the dollar.

In fact, I would venture to guess that a sizeable percentage of even educated adults would be astounded to discover that the Federal Reserve does more than manage the nation's money accounts, that, in fact, its main activity consists in actually creating money that distorts production and creates inflation and the business cycle. In fact, I would go further to suggest that many educated adults believe that gold continues to serve as the ultimate backing of our monetary system, and would be astonished to discover that our money is backed by nothing but more of itself.

We have our work cut out for us, to be sure, mainly at the educational level. We must continue to state the obvious at every opportunity, that the fiat system is exactly what it is, a system of paper money backed by nothing of real value. We must continue to point out that because of this, our economic system is not depression proof, but rather highly vulnerable to complete meltdown. We must continue to draw attention to the only long-term solution: a complete separation of money and state based on the commodity that the market has always chosen as money, namely, gold.

This takes us back to our original question: is the gold standard history? Is it so preposterously unrealistic to advocate it that we might as well move to on other things? It won't surprise you that my answer is no. If there is one thing that a long-term view of politics teaches, it is that only the long-term really matters.

There will come a time when the current money and banking system, living off credit created by a fiat money system, will be stretched beyond the limit. When it happens, attitudes will turn on a dime. No advocate of the gold standard looks forward to the crisis nor to the human suffering that will come with it. We do, however, look forward to the reassertion of economic law in the field of money and banking. When it becomes incredibly obvious that something drastic must replace the current system, new attention will be paid to the voices that have long cast aspersions on the current system and called for a restoration of sound money.

Must a crisis lead to monetary reforms that we will like? Not necessarily, and, for that matter, a crisis is not a necessary precursor to radical reform. As Mises himself used to emphasize, political history has no predetermined course. Everything depends on the ideas that people hold about fundamental issues of human freedom and the place of government. Under the right conditions, I have no doubt that a gold standard can be completely restored, no matter how unfavorable the current environment appears towards its restoration.

What is essential for us today is to continue the research, the writing, the advocacy for sound money, for a dollar that is as good as gold, for a monetary system that is separate from the state. It is a beautiful vision indeed, one in which the people and not the government and its connected interest groups maintain control of their money and its safe keeping.

What has been true for hundreds of years remains true today. The clearest path to the restoration of economic health is the free market undergirded by a sound monetary system. The clearest path toward economic destruction is for us to stop working toward what is right and true." See  here.

Let's do everything we can to end the Fed and restore the real gold standard!

 The Best of Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.