As gold price slowly climbs toward $2,000 an ounce, many voices advocate a return to some kind of gold standard

Another powerful statement on  behalf of a partial gold standard was made by Judy Shelton
in The Weekly Standard, Washington, D.C.
 August 1, 2011.

As the truth-or-dare battle over raising the debt ceiling moves toward a resolution of some sort, we are witnessing a unique political moment… The dollar has been at the core of global finance since the end of World War II, as the preferred global currency for trade and capital transactions. One major benefit: It has enabled America to more easily borrow. …The dollar’s prominent role in global financial affairs makes it the most vital nonmilitary instrument of American power.

People take dollars in the expectation they will be able to use them in the future to obtain something of comparable worth. They place their faith not so much in the “credit of the U.S. government” as in the eventual capacity of America’s economy to yield productive output. As government-issued claims against our country’s future output accumulate, there is a hollowing-out effect, with financial capital drawn away from the real economy. Real economic growth happens when private investors take their chances on innovative entrepreneurs — not when they are induced to purchase “safe” government securities.

Fear of losing the dollar as a meaningful unit of account has lately forged a curious confluence of interest among unlikely parties. …This makes for an unexpected coalition for monetary reform. The decline of the dollar is linking the economic anxieties of Americans — on Main Street and Wall Street — with profound concern elsewhere in the world over whether America will continue to exercise global leadership.

What gold brings to the monetary table is discipline. If individuals suspect that money is being issued in excess of levels warranted by legitimate economic needs and growth prospects, they can exchange their currency holdings for gold at a pre-established, fixed rate. Gold convertibility ensures that the money supply expands or contracts based on the collective assessment of market participants — as opposed to the less-than-omniscient hunches of central bankers. …Under a gold standard, money regains its primary purpose as a vital tool of free markets instead of serving as a corrupted instrument of government policy. Genuine economic growth — as opposed to the money illusion of artificial wealth reflected in bloated equities or housing prices — is no longer sacrificed to monetary policy encumbered by the fiscal failures of government.

We have learned from the European Union’s experience with the euro this past decade that major benefits can be derived from eliminating price distortions caused by fluctuating currencies; unfortunately, the lack of fiscal discipline among participating eurozone nations now threatens the entire system. As with the dollar, the ability of eurozone governments to borrow money to cover nonproductive deficit spending — and then convert government-issued debt obligations into a component of the monetary base — undermines the credibility of the currency. Robert Mundell, the Nobel laureate in economics who laid the theoretical groundwork for the euro, suggested recently that the world could move forward to a better monetary system by tying the U.S. dollar and the euro to each other and also to gold.

Americans are more cognizant now of the inverse relationship between the spot price of gold and the perceived value of the dollar. Far from inclining toward naïve provincialism or embracing rigid dogma, the growing number of citizens who purchase gold — in physical form, or through exchange-traded funds — testifies to increasing savvy. Tired of falling for the ruse of putting dollars into savings accounts at near-zero rates of interest, many opt to purchase Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities to avoid getting burned by dollar debasement. Which raises the question: Why should we have to game the future value of our own currency? Why can’t we just have money that works?

The fact that legislation has been introduced in 13 states to allow gold and silver to function as legal tender indicates broad dissatisfaction with the Fed’s stewardship of the dollar. …Anyone who believes that the effort to reaffirm a gold link for the dollar is politically quixotic was not paying attention when Sen. Jim DeMint questioned Fed chairman Ben Bernanke at a hearing earlier this year. Making reference to a 1981 proposal by Alan Greenspan, published in the Wall Street Journal, that the Treasury issue five-year notes payable in gold or dollars, at the option of the holder, DeMint asked: “Have you given any thought to the idea of issuing bonds payable in gold that would begin to create some standard for our currency?” Bernanke demurred, observing that a gold standard was no “panacea,” yet also conceding that “it did deliver price stability over very long periods of time.”

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