Going Postel: Fairy Tales and Gold

Reuters published, on July 17th, an epic, mythic, blog about conservatives, the gold standard, and fairy tales by Prof. Charles Postel.  

Image courtesy of Papergreat

It is entitled Why conservatives spin fairytales about the gold standard. It is fraught with factual errors both of commission and omission; strange, insupportable, inferences; and odd interpretations.  

It presents, for example, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) as having an agenda to restore the gold standard.  This is an inference for which there is no evidence.  It blisters gold-standard proponent David Stockman ... while omitting to note that Mr. Stockman adheres to much of the classic populist indictment of Wall Street.

Prof. Postel, an ardent champion of populism, presents gold standard proponents as defenders of privilege, rather than opportunity -- of capital in preference to labor.  The contemporary evidence is very much to the contrary

Reading Postel's progressive fable is a recipe for becoming something between baffled and bewildered.  This blogger has addressed some of the mistakes therein in his weekly column in Forbes.com.  Addressing all of Prof. Postel's errors and omissions would have been far too tedious except for the most tendentious of readers.  There are a plenitude of other errors.

Conservatives do not, strictly speaking, spin fairy tales about the gold standard. In a way, Prof. Postel has his very premise backwards. Composers of fairy tales often wove gold into their stories. 

From the Brothers Grimm:

The Gold-Children

by The Brothers Grimm

translated by Margaret Taylor (1884)

There was once a poor man and a poor woman who had nothing but a little cottage, and who earned their bread by fishing, and always lived from hand to mouth. But it came to pass one day when the man was sitting by the water-side, and casting his net, that he drew out a fish entirely of gold. As he was looking at the fish, full of astonishment, it began to speak and said, "Hark you, fisherman, if you will throw me back again into the water, I will change your little hut into a splendid castle." Then the fisherman answered, "Of what use is a castle to me, if I have nothing to eat?" The gold fish continued, "That shall be taken care of, there will be a cupboard in the castle in which, when you open it, shall be dishes of the most delicate meats, and as many of them as you can desire." "If that be true," said the man, "then I can well do you a favour." "Yes," said the fish, "there is, however, the condition that you shall disclose to no one in the world, whosoever he may be, whence your good luck has come, if you speak but one single word, all will be over." Then the man threw the wonderful fish back again into the water, and went home. But where his hovel had formerly stood, now stood a great castle. He opened wide his eyes, entered, and saw his wife dressed in beautiful clothes, sitting in a splendid room, and she was quite delighted, and said, "Husband, how has all this come to pass? It suits me very well." "Yes," said the man, "it suits me too, but I am frightfully hungry, just give me something to eat." Said the wife, "But I have got nothing and don't know where to find anything in this new house." "There is no need of your knowing," said the man, "for I see yonder a great cupboard, just unlock it." When she opened it, there stood cakes, meat, fruit, wine, quite a bright prospect.

Then the woman cried joyfully, "What more can you want, my dear?" and they sat down, and ate and drank together. When they had had enough, the woman said, "But husband, whence come all these riches?" "Alas," answered he, "do not question me about it, for I dare not tell you anything; if I disclose it to any one, then all our good fortune will fly." "Very good," said she, "if I am not to know anything, then I do not want to know anything." However, she was not in earnest; she never rested day or night, and she goaded her husband until in his impatience he revealed that all was owing to a wonderful golden fish which he had caught, and to which in return he had given its liberty. And as soon as the secret was out, the splendid castle with the cupboard immediately disappeared, they were once more in the old fisherman's hut, and the man was obliged to follow his former trade and fish. But fortune would so have it, that he once more drew out the golden fish. "Listen," said the fish, "if you will throw me back into the water again, I will once more give you the castle with the cupboard full of roast and boiled meats; only be firm, for your life's sake don't reveal from whom you have it, or you will lose it all again!" "I will take good care," answered the fisherman, and threw the fish back into the water. Now at home everything was once more in its former magnificence, and the wife was overjoyed at their good fortune, but curiosity left her no peace, so that after a couple of days she began to ask again how it had come to pass, and how he had managed to secure it. The man kept silence for a short time, but at last she made him so angry that he broke out, and betrayed the secret. In an instant the castle disappeared, and they were back again in their old hut. "Now you have got what you want," said he; "and we can gnaw at a bare bone again." "Ah," said the woman, "I had rather not have riches if I am not to know from whom they come, for then I have no peace."


Gold has elemental, perhaps even archetypal, properties.  It is well adapted, one might even say, to serve as the monetarily definitional metal. 

And yes, Prof. Postel, you may correctly infer that, like the fisherman's wife, this conservative blogger would rather know the source of any riches he might gain.  And thus have peace.