31 May 2008

Back to the Gold Standard?

I got thinking about the gold standard again thanks to Alexey, who always forces me to reconsider my assumptions.  We were most recently chatting about systemic inflation of the money supply, caused to a great extent by the Federal Reserve (central bank) system of controlling the US currency.  He most recently pointed me to this C-SPAN interview of economist Joseph Salerno who describes in a simple manner the history of and his opinion of the effect of the 1968 repeal of the gold standard, and the creation of the central bank system.  A few of things struck me about this interview:
  1. I had no idea how little I knew about the actual repeal of the gold standard, and how it had come and gone out of fashion over the centuries.  I'd thought there was some big hubbub around the time The Wizard of Oz was written, and remembered from American History class that TWOO was some sort of allegory involving a return to the gold standard.  But for some reason, I always thought that was an economic battle fought long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
  2. Most of the interested public also knows very little about this topic, judging from the folks who called in.  That made me feel a little better, but not much.
  3. The economist Keynes, as well as being a major architect of the global banking system we have today, was also an advocate of a single world currency, the Bancor, controlled by a single world central bank, the International Clearing Union.  This lends unfortunate credence to New World Order conspiracy theorists everywhere.  Ugh.
  4. The idea of having multiple, valid currencies in a single country actually makes some sense.  The advantage would be a move toward less inflation-prone currencies.  Currently, governments around the world use inflation as a hidden tax, so as to avoid unpopular tax hikes.
For those in the mood for more of a story-telling format, This American Life did a great radio show episode recently on the money supply, and the various causes of the current housing and credit crisis.  The vignette of the debt trader who's gone from living the high life ($100K per month!) to being in debt himself is priceless.

Update: I'd forgotten to include this cute (if a bit long) web video on the topic.  It's designed for everyone from grade-school up, and also appears in many languages.  Enjoy! (Thanks to Andrew for reminding me about this.)


  1. The repeal of the gold standard was a very dangerous thing for them to do. Now all we have is money backed by nothing, and fake money manufactured through computers. I truly believe that having nothing backing our currency is why the dollar is falling so fast. With the gold standard, people always knew what our currency was worth. Now, it's just numbers in cyberspace.

    The Fed not only controls the money supply, but in doing so, it controls us all.

  2. The more I hear about the idea of competing currencies, the more I like it. In that sense, this experiment isn't irreversible. I forgot to include an explanatory web cartoon – it's particularly accessible, if a bit long.

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