To argue with Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is risky. He is well-informed, he has travelled much, writes well and has a sharp intellect. Yet, I must affirm that he is mistaken in some of the opinions expressed in his recent article at “The Telegraph” www.telegraph.co.uk “A new Gold Standard is being born” January 17, 2013.
In the article he refers to the “(old) Gold Standard dynamic at work with all its destructive power, and the risk of sudden ruptures always present.”
I take it that he refers to the pre-WW I Gold Standard, and the financial chaos that broke out in 1930, to which he refers as “the destructive power” of the Gold Standard. That chaos should not be attributed to the Gold Standard as it existed, but to the previous expansion of credit in violation of the rules of the Gold Standard. The pain of the 1930’s was the correction which the Gold Standard imposed upon the financial diddling with credit expansion which the Powers had adopted; what was “destructive” was their policy of credit expansion beyond savings. If you stick your finger in the fire, don’t blame fire for its “destructive power”; just refrain from doing that.
Modern warfare is highly destructive. A couple of centuries ago, wars involved fighting between armies; civilians were spared. Cannons were directed at the opposing army.
Today, war means general destruction; civilians on the losing side can expect to be plundered, killed or raped. Cities are targeted for mass destruction. We rode a bus through post-war Germany in 1948, and recall that the city of Bremen was simply miles of rubble piled up on either side of a road cleared for traffic.
WW II leveled some cities of Europe in the countries which were part of the Axis, and killed millions of soldiers and civilians.
After the war, both the winners and the losers turned to re-building their countries. The devastated cities began to heal; new, modern factories were built. People went back to doing what they had been doing before the war. By 1970, a traveler could hardly tell there had been such terrible destruction and loss of life just twenty-five years earlier.
Now let us consider fiat money and its consequences.
At Bretton Woods in 1944 Henry Morgenthau and Harry Dexter White outmaneuvered John Maynard Keynes, the British Delegate to the Monetary Conference, and the Conference ended by accepting the American “diktat” for the post-war monetary structure of the world: the dollar was to be as good as gold for purposes of international payments, and the US promised to redeem for gold dollars held by other national central banks at the rate of one ounce of gold for each $35 dollars tendered for redemption.
This was a structure doomed to failure from the start, and men such as Jacques Rueff of France understood this quite clearly.
The US promptly began to abuse its “exorbitant privilege”, as France’s General de Gaulle called it, and to send dollars abroad in payment of its trade deficits. However, the promise of redemption of dollars for gold did act to restrain somewhat the expansion of credit in the US. There was a general respect for the dollar and its relative scarcity produced only mild inflations in the countries that received dollars.
I must have read fifty accounts, in the FT and others of that ilk, about what went wrong with the Euro. I have yet to read one that comes out with the plain, unvarnished truth. The whole bloody Establishment of bankers, politicians, economists and journalist whores sings the same song: “The euro came to grief because there was no fiscal union”. Therefore, the solution to be inferred is that fiscal union would remedy the case of the European Union’s imminent collapse.
Let’s face it: the euro is a fiat currency and fiat always ends up in disaster.
Our civilization is in evident decline. If it weren’t, we would find several eminent economists of the stature of Jacques Rueff in the halls of power; he was the French economist who wisely counseled General Charles de Gaulle to remove France’s gold from the cellars of the NY Fed and transfer it to France.
Jacques Rueff was a man capable of understanding the fundamentals of how the world works. His vision was clear, and his intellectual scope was capable of taking in the details of local commerce as well its international workings. Men and women of his capacity are still around today, but they are not welcome in the higher reaches of politics.
Rueff wrote a little book in 1963, “L’Age de L’Inflation” (“The Age of Inflation”) made up of some articles he had written. He wrote an “Introduction” to his book, and the very first words are these:
“LE SORT DE L’HOMME SE JOUE SUR LA MONNAIE”
A loose translation, taking into account the content of his book, would be:
“THE DESTINY OF MANKIND HINGES UPON GOLD”
Europe is a great mess today because those in power made the wrong choice when deciding what currency the European Union should use. They chose a fiat currency instead of the Gold Standard and currency redeemable in gold at sight. That is the Original Sin of the euro.
Rueff was also active when the European Union was being forged. His book’s fifth essay ends with these prophetic words:
“L’ EUROPE SE FERA SUR LA MONNAIE, OU NE SE FERA PAS”
Translated loosely and considering Rueff’s views, this would be:
“EUROPE WILL BE BUILT UPON GOLD,
Indeed, United Europe is falling apart. By the time you read this, it may already have collapsed. But it is falling apart not because of a lack of “Fiscal Union”. It is collapsing because of the absence of the fundamental means for free international collaboration, based on the realities of each nation of Europe: there is no gold standard at work.
Somewhere in his books, Ludwig von Mises states that the beginning of the end of the Austrian Empire came when the gold coin stopped circulating in the Empire. It was this stable and trustworthy money that had held together an Empire made up of several nations with very different cultures. When the gold coin disappeared, the unifying factor was gone as well.
Gold is the money for societies made up of men and women who wish to live in the real world.
The abandonment of the gold standard in 1971 is closely tied to the massive unemployment the industrialized world has suffered in recent years; Mexico, even with a lower level of industrialization than the developed countries, has also lost jobs due to the closing of industries; in recent years, the creation of new jobs in productive activities has been anemic at best.