Shame is something we can all enjoy. In the wake of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, TIME’s Joe Stein wrote: “I am incredibly judgmental. This is partly because it’s fun, partly because it’s a way to bond with others and mostly because one of my few faults is not appreciating how difficult it is for others to be as amazing as I am.”
“I do not believe that people who watched the Oprah interview felt wronged for believing that an athlete didn’t dope to win a sport they’ve never watched,” Stein wrote. “I believe that interview made us feel better about all the bad things we’ve done, because at least we didn’t cheat at cycling. Even better, it allowed us to avoid asking if we would have. I know I would have if I weren’t so afraid of needles. And exercising.”
“Shame is like everything else,” wrote Salman Rushdie, “live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture.” Shame is a near universal impulse. We see it all the time when Congress hauls the delinquent or presumed-delinquent before their committee hearings to denounce wrong-doing. Shame should be reserved for the things we choose to do, not the circumstances that life puts on us. We saw it when Jonah Lerer collected $20,000 from the Knight Foundation for detailing how he fabricated for his best-selling book Imagine:
What I clearly need is a new list of rules, a stricter set of standard operating procedures. If I’m lucky enough to write again, then whatever I write will be fact-checked and fully footnoted. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book or an article or the text for a speech like this one. Every conversation with a subject will be tape recorded and transcribed. If the subject would like a copy of their transcript, I will provide it. There is, of course, nothing innovative about these procedures. The vast majority of journalists don’t need to be shamed into following them. But I did, which is why I also need to say them out loud.
So, there you have, the antidote to shame is following the rules – whether in sports or writing or even monetary policy. The problem comes when folks think they can (a) ignore the rules; (b) make up their own rules.
And, of course, is why we need a monetary rule called the gold standard. It is when political and monetary authorities decided to scrap that rule that we began the long descent into monetary disorder and shame.
With the gold standard, we might only feel better. We might prosper.
Today’s economic conditions reflect a fiat monetary system held together by many tricks and luck over the past 40 years. The world has been awash in paper money since removal of the last vestige of the gold standard by Richard Nixon when he buried the Bretton Woods agreement — the gold exchange standard — on August 15, 1971.
Since then we’ve been on a worldwide paper dollar standard. Quite possibly we are seeing the beginning of the end of that system. If so, tough times are ahead for the United States and the world economy.
The new Federal Reserve chairman, Janet Yellen, gave a policy speech today at Chicago, where, in a startling gesture, she mentioned three working individuals by name — Jermaine Brownlee, Vicki Lira, and Doreen Poole. They lost their jobs the Great Recession and have been struggling ever since. It was a refreshing, even affecting demarche by Mrs. Yellen, who has made a return to full employment a public priority. She underscored her sincerity by telephoning Mr. Brownlee and Ms. Lira and Ms. Poole before delivering her speech.
Publisher's Note: Originally released in June/July of 1991, this detailed report discusses Jacques Rueff's economic theories and applies them to modern economic events.
By John D. Mueller
Who Was Jacques Rueff?
... Trained in science and mathematics at the Ecole Polytechnique, Rueff devoted his first theoretical work to showing that the same scientific method applies to “moral” or “social” sciences like economics as to the physical sciences (Des Sciences Physiques aux Sciences Morales, 1922). In both cases, he pointed out, individual acts can be “indeterminate,” but the pattern of large numbers of individual acts can be predicted as a matter of probability. And so in economics no less than physics, as he later wrote, “A scientific theory is considered correct only if it makes forecasting possible.”
"Forerunners of man lived upon the planet several million years ago. But the unique, modern, social order of man – civilization – emerged only four to five thousand years ago. Historical and archaeological evidence suggests that the institution of money evolved coterminously with civilization. From the standpoint of the 100,000-year history of Homo sapiens, civilization and money are but young and fragile reeds. Today their very existence is threatened by financial disorder."
There is a lot of bad behavior in the global political and monetary world. Much of it comes in countries that should know better. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) easily won municipal electons in Turkey but the party’s candidates won far short of the nation’s votes.
Hostility toward gold has a long pedigree.
19th century depiction of Pliny the Elder courtesy of the Library of Congress
Gaius Plinius Secundus, commonly known as Pliny the Elder, in his The Natural History, Book 33, section 3, writes:
Would that gold could have been banished for ever from the earth, accursed by...