Clearing Up Misconceptions About the Gold Standard

Would a gold standard result in Chinese plundering of American gold reserves?

Generally speaking, monetary policy and the gold standard is not something that people give a lot of thought to so there are some very common responses that need to be sorted through for people who have not yet been exposed to it.

Objection 1) There is not enough gold in the United States to operate a gold standard because American gold reserves do not match the money currently in circulation.

Answer 1) America operated the gold standard for over a century without having enough gold in its reserves to match a prospective demand from every holder of American dollars to cash in for the appropriate amount of gold.  You can cash in your dollars for gold but you could not do it if everyone else did it at the same time.

Objection 2) If there is not enough gold in the system to redeem dollars at 100%, that is putting the entire system into unnecessary risk.

Answer 2) If every Bank of America customer went to Bank of America simultaneously to demand their savings, Bank of America would file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  They, like all banks — including the Federal Reserve — are leveraging assets by lending more money than they do in fact have.

Objection 3) Gold is a commodity.  Its values fluctuate and it is not inherently valuable.

Answer 3) If gold is not inherently valuable, what does that say about cloth pictures of Benjamin Franklin?  They do not seem to have much inherent value.  Gold, in fact, has the exact same level of value in 2010 as 1930.  You could get a family car for the exact same amount of gold in 1930 as you could in 2010.  The same is true of a button-down shirt.  The dollar has gone to pieces losing 80% of its value just since the 1970s.

Objection 4) The Great Depression hit countries worse on the gold standard because central bankers and government planners were unable to mobilize liquid monetary assets.

Answer 4) During World War I, the British Empire went off the gold standard in order to finance the deficits it was running to pay for World War I.  During the war, there was real inflation in the British economy.  After the war, the British Empire set the price of gold artificially low in order to cause deflation that would bring British monetary policy back to where it had been before the war.  This was a violation of the principle of the gold standard.  The gold standard is designed to prevent any central monetary control by any power whatsoever.  When the British Empire attempted to use the gold standard to effect certain monetary goals, they set a false standard.  Because they were then the reserve currency of the world, this caused a worldwide Great Depression.  It was actually more manipulative to have a falsely priced gold standard than not to have one at all because the post WWI Gold Standard was an attempt to have centrally planned interference in the market.  Thus, increased monetary interference caused the Great Depression and created a century-long misconception about the need for strong centralized monetary control.

Objection 5) The gold standard cannot be returned to because of the global economy and the negative effect that such a radical change would have.

Answer 5) The US Dollar is currently the reserve currency of the world.  If the dollar was switched onto the gold standard, then all other currencies would automatically be linked to the dollar and therefore to gold as well.  It would be instant and seamless monetary transition to the global gold standard.  This would curtail the power of central banks (in addition to the Fed itself) across the world.

Objection 6) China will benefit by making a huge run on our gold reserves.

Answer 6) The US is currently in no position to ever pay back our debt.  We need to restore exports, recapture the revenues resulting from taxing our Fortune 500 companies, hedge funds, and mutual funds here at home.  Only then will the US be able to address our debt problem.  Once the gold standard is proposed, the US will need to make arrangements with foreign creditors to pay back the debt that is owed just as a family with a bad financial situation will renegotiate a mortgage.  Protections have to be in place before the switch to prevent China from getting our gold reserves immediately.  It is important to note that China will be hesitant to even desire a giant run on US gold because it would remove their global economic advantage that results from cheap manufacturing.  They will be very amenable to striking a deal that will allow a gradual repayment of US debt.

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