Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Superiority of the Gold Standard

"Gold is not an ideal basis for a monetary system. Like all human creations, the gold standard is not free from shortcomings; but in the existing circumstances there is no other way of emancipating the monetary system from the changing influences of party politics and government interference, either in the present or, so far as can be foreseen, in the future. And no monetary system that is not free from these influences will be able to form the basis of credit transactions. Those who blame the gold standard should not forget that it was the gold standard that enabled the civilization of the nineteenth century to spread beyond the old capitalistic countries of Western Europe, and made the wealth of these countries available for the development of the rest of the world." - (Source: Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit, 1953, p.19) 

What does Ludwig von Mises want to communicate through the above passage? How would you interpret it? And how is it relevant to the existing monetary system? 

The passage talks about the superiority of the gold standard over any form of political intervention in monetary affairs. Yes, Ludwig von Mises acknowledged that the gold standard is not perfect. However, he saw it as the only way to emancipate the monetary system from political control. It is implied in his words that the political control of monetary system is a threat to credit transaction for its very basis is unreliable. And then he concludes that those who dislike the gold standard have actually lost any historical sense. He cited the 19th century wealth formation and expansion as the outcome of following the gold standard.

How about our existing monetary system? Is it not under political control? Many people are not aware that the existing fiat currency is not actually an outcome of free-market monetary system; it is a product of the policy of interventionist government. Our money therefore is not a market money, but a political one. This explains the existing chaos both in the economic and monetary affairs of nations for these two are inseparable; money is the lifeblood of the economy. Once you tamper with it, you are overturning the foundation of society. John Maynard Keynes put it this way: 
“There is no subtler nor surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”