There may be readers who weren’t even born when the U.S. still had a gold-backed dollar. Since the gold standard was abolished in 1971, the value of the dollar has decreased annually by 3.96 percent. You would need over $600 today to purchase the same goods you purchased for $100 in 1973. Still, a dollar is a dollar, right? No, it is not. It is just a piece of paper.
Is there a chance the U.S. could return to the gold standard and provide real value to the U.S. currency? Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller are President Trump’s pick for Federal Reserve governors. As it happens, Ms. Shelton is a believer in the gold standard and a critic of current Federal Reserve policies. She believes that the Fed has become unnecessarily involved in trade policies instead of adhering to its function of regulating the monetary system. Returning to the gold standard is not a popular idea these days when economists support the limitless printing for currency, high debt, and inflation.
Ms. Shelton would have been considered mainstream 35 years ago. Today, she is thought of as unorthodox. In 2018, she wrote in an article published by the conservative thinktank, Cato Institute,
“If the appeal of cryptocurrencies is their capacity to provide a common currency, and to maintain a uniform value for every issued unit, we need only consult historical experience to ascertain that these same qualities were achieved through the classical international gold standard.”
She also authored a book, Fixing the Dollar Now. In it, she advocates for linking the dollar to a benchmark of value, preferably gold. More than four decades ago, the currency of all major countries, such a Britain, Japan, France, Russia, and others were linked to gold. In 1933, the dollar was linked to $35 worth of gold. In 2019, the value of the dollar is less than one-thirtieth of that.
The gold standard helped the U.S. prosper for 180 years. The signers of the U.S. Constitution included this requirement in Article 10.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Almost two hundred years later, such a concept is deemed unorthodox. Ideologies change, and not always for the better.
The reason the Founding Fathers included a monetary policy in the Constitution is that they wanted money to be as far away as possible from any human intervention. This was achieved by linking the dollar to gold. Gold is a stable commodity, and thus ensures a stable U.S. currency.
Countries today link their currency to some other, stronger currency, such as the dollar or the euro. This means that these countries have no control over their own currency and are at the mercy of an arbitrary link. But as the dollar and euro weaken, so do the currencies that have linked themselves to it. This serves as a disruption of all global economies.
“Stable money” provides us with logical economic guidelines. Market forces become the determining factor of what is produced and where capital is spent. For example, if the price of oil becomes too high, the consumer will reduce oil consumption while companies will either increase their production of oil or seek other sources. When market forces rule, everyone benefits.
Market forces have largely been replaced by government interference and manipulation. The cost of a loaf of bread is what the government says it will be. (See Venezuela for an extreme example.) To manipulate prices, the government, or the Fed, needs to manipulate the value of the dollar. The loaf of bread purchased a year ago for $2.00 now costs $2.50. Same bread, manipulated price. When market forces rule, the price of a loaf of bread would be determined by consumer choice. Under central banking rules, the price would be manipulated by some artificial whim.
One of the easiest ways to manipulate money is through easy credit. Print unlimited currency with no intrinsic value and you create a mountain of debt. This will inevitably lead to inflation and higher prices. If the dollar were once again linked to gold, only a certain amount of money, backed by gold, could be printed. Debt, inflation and higher prices would almost immediately go into a tailspin. Money cannot be manipulated under the gold standard. Perhaps that is why so many economists fear to return to such a standard.
Judy Shelton will be duly criticized for her opinions. Stable money is a new concept for a new generation of bankers and economists. But gold has been around for thousands of years and will undoubtedly outlast these new thinkers.