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Historic gold agreements

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

1944 – Establishment of the IMF

The first international agreement on gold came with the signing of the International Monetary Fund’s articles of agreement in July 1944.

The IMF was created in order to rebuild the global monetary system after the Second World War, and its articles laid down that all member countries should establish ‘par values’ for their currencies in terms of gold, or in terms of the US dollar which was itself pegged to gold. One dollar was valued at 0.888671 gram of fine gold, or US$35 an ounce.

The agreement confirmed the price of gold as established by President Roosevelt in 1933, and gold became the foundation of the first international monetary system established by international agreement. It was the ‘glue’ that held the system of exchange rates together.

To give the new IMF usable resources to enable it to start lending, members were also required to pay 25 per cent of their subscription to the Fund in gold. Members had to buy and sell gold at the fixed price, plus or minus a margin set by the IMF. Gold was the ultimate reserve asset.

This requirement and the growth of membership resulted in IMF holdings of gold rising to 153 million ounces by 1975, at the time worth US$21 billion.

1960s – Central banks try to stabilise gold prices

In 1961, a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ among central banks – known as ‘The Gold Pool’ – was established to hold the price of gold close to the then official price of US$35 an ounce.

The previous year, the price had risen to US$40 per ounce following panic buying of gold during the US presidential race and a speculative attack on the dollar. According to the Bank of England, “this state of affairs threatened the whole structure of exchange relationships in the western world”. The bank, with the support of the US authorities, sold gold on a substantial scale to bring the price down “to more appropriate levels”.

In October 1961, following a further speculative flurry, the central banks of Western Europe agreed to cooperate with the New York Federal Reserve Bank to stabilise the market.

A period of coordinated gold purchases followed the change of market conditions. However, the Cuba missile crisis of July 1962 triggered record demands for gold on the London market, which was again met by official selling. The objective throughout was to “avoid unnecessary and disturbing fluctuations in the price of gold in the free market”.

The Bank of England’s conclusion on this experiment was that “the knowledge that the central banks were working together in the gold, as well as in the exchange markets, has helped to maintain public confidence in the existing international monetary structure”.

The central banks abolished The Gold Pool in 1968, agreeing that they would no longer supply gold to the market but transact only among themselves at the official price. This established a two-tier system – one for private transactions, where the price fluctuated according to supply and demand, and the other for official transactions.

This agreement lasted until November 1973, when the price of gold was allowed to move freely, following the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold—the end of the gold standard—in August 1971.

1978 – The IMF attempts to write gold out of the system

In the late 1970s, the United States led an attempt to remove gold from the international monetary system. The Second Amendment of the International Monetary Fund’s articles was intended to achieve this aim by barring members from fixing their exchange rates to gold and removing the obligation on members to conduct transactions in gold at the officially mandated price.

The amendment followed the failure of previous attempts to establish a new international monetary system, including the inability of European countries to force the United States to either settle its deficit in gold, or else devalue the dollar against gold.

Not only did the United States refuse to keep gold in the system, it then led a crusade against gold—while being careful to keep a very large strategic stock of gold in its own reserves, sealed off from the outside world.

Symbolising the plan to drive gold out of the system, the IMF was instructed to dispose of 50 million ounces of its gold stock of 153 million ounces. It achieved this partly by sales to the market and partly by giving some gold to members.

Ironically, this exercise had the effect of spreading gold much more widely through the international community than ever before, and gave many countries a new interest in the gold market. Few countries showed any inclination to sell the gold handed to them, and in the vast majority of cases it continues to sit on their books.

Ext.: World Gold Council.

Alternative Currencies are not new

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Around the world there are numerous examples of local currencies which have been introduced to promote local business, local produce, customer loyalty and awareness to trade issues and climate control. They all tend to be run in parallel to the national currency but are based on creating a thriving local, fully functioning economy incentivised by promotions and discounts. In recent years they have been launched in the UK as part of the Transitions Towns initiative and these include the Totnes Pound, The Brixton Pound, The Stroud Pound and the Lewes Pound. Lewes had previously introduced its own currency in 1789 which lasted until 1895. These pounds are obtained by exchanging pounds sterling for equivalent face value “local” pounds. Various denominations have evolved such as the 5, 10 and 21 Lewes pounds issued in 2009. There have also been schemes in the US such as the BerksShares in Massachusetts which are bought for 95 cents yet are worth $1. These are available in 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 denominations. Similarly there have been examples in Canada with the Toronto Dollar, the Calgary Dollar and also in Australia with the Baroon Dollar. Most of these initiatives have been launched since 2006 or later and may well be a local solution in the fightback against the worldwide economic problems. They are viewed as trustworthy currency with real value to the local economy and in certain cases well-meaning because of the positive impact they have on local services and prosperity. Although these models function locally they do demonstrate a widening appeal for taking control of currency and introducing stability to the functioning of an economy.
Are National Economies really functioning?
If they are then for who are they functioning- surely not the majority? What’s happened to the Utopia of Globalisation? One has to ask where we are heading with the daily drivel of mixed messages to suit the media’s demand for sound bites and politician’s short term ambitions for themselves far outweighing the long term requirements of the National interest (daily or decades of proof – take your pick!).
What can be said of today’s global currencies which are currently being prostituted by their governments in a global exchange war to meet their “protectionism” objectives by stealth. Who is controlling their value and to what end?
The “trust” in these currencies is gradually being eroded to the point that Central Banks and the big “clever” money of investors are seeking sanctuary in what may be the only true trustworthy currency – physical gold.
This is fine for the multi-billionaires of this world like George Soros who can afford vaults of the stuff but what about the smaller investor.
Is it time to think that Gold may well become the only currency we can truly rely on? It may also be time to consider exactly what is a trustworthy currency for the future and will it be issued by central banks? There is definite interest in creating a currency of confidence at a time when traditional currencies lose appeal on a daily basis in the unpredictability of an unstable economy and the ever fluctuating foreign exchanges around the world.
This theme is even more current if one observes the trend in the US where Gold is being adopted in Utah and possibly other states as a more reliable store of value and wealth. The website for the Utah Gold and Silver Depository, set up as the means of this remonetization, states:
“On March 25, 2011 history was made when Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law Utah HB317 [The Utah Sound Money Act] thereby monetizing precious metals in the form of Gold and Silver American Eagles and United States numismatics (rare coins dated 1792 to 1964) in the state of Utah. The Utah Gold & Silver Depository was founded on the belief that every citizen of the global community has the fundamental right to legally create, preserve and store wealth. To meet the global demand for safe, secure transactions and storage, UGSD has developed a number of depository account options from which a customer can choose and tailor to best meet that customer’s needs and goals.”
The idea is that citizens who wish to monetize their gold and silver will lodge it in an account with the Depository which will then issue them with electronic money in the form of a debit card, which stores the dollar equivalent which is debited against the gold and silver which backs it. The beauty of the Utah scheme is that the “gold debit card” is so clearly linked to the actual gold and silver, the value of which is constantly audited: the card represents the actual gold, which is also personally yours. The technology cannot trump the value or manipulate it. The gold backed debit card is analogous to the old promise printed on, say, Bank of England notes, whereby the possessor of the note was entitled to redeem the face value of the note in gold specie if he produced the note at the bank.
So, this example shows that it is desirable and possible, using modern technologies, to monetize gold making it an alternative to the so called real currencies. A Currency of Confidence with ongoing real lasting and meaningful value. A dream or reality? We shall see… when the austerity measures around Europe are judged, deficits reduced or not and belief in the status quo currency and its current custodians is ultimately maintained or evaporated.

Extract from the English adaptation of the French book : L’or, Un Placement qui (R)Assure (2011) written by Jean-François Faure,President and founder of AuCoffre.com.

Tax Free Savings

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

A Tax Free Savings Account in physical gold that you own

UK Taxpayers have a unique opportunity to save in pure gold, a real tangible asset, without paying VAT or Capital Gains Tax. Start from just 1 gram a month.

Gold Britannia and Sovereign investment quality coins offer a unique advantage to investors because they offer between 18% -28% additional benefits over other investments. Why? … because they are completely exempt from Capital Gains Tax. Furthermore, they are exempt from VAT.

Britannia 1 ounce_averse

Britannia 1 ounce averse

Gold Britannia 1 ounce coin

Britannia 1 ounce obverse

Britannia 1 ounce obverse

A beautifully struck gold bullion coin that has UK legal tender status and a face value of £100 – although its actual value is many times greater. The Gold Britannia coin was originally alloyed with Copper, but from 1990 the decision was made to alloy with Silver. This is why the earlier Gold Britannia’s have the deep Gold colour, as opposed to the lighter yellow gold colour of the Britannia since 1990. The latest 2013 coins have no alloy and are pure gold and 999.9°/oo fineness.

Sovereign Elizabeth II_averse

Sovereign Elizabeth II averse

British Gold Sovereign coin

Sovereign Elizabeth II obverse

Sovereign Elizabeth II obverse

The full British Sovereign is one of the most recognised gold coins in the world, with UK legal tender status and it can attract a healthy premium as it is always in demand, at home and abroad. Their legendary reputation comes from their use in a pilot’s survival kit by many air forces, being sewn into their jackets and used to negotiate their safe passage home if downed during a mission. The attraction was the integrity of their British origin which provided the utmost trust to their owners.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Coins which are legal tender in the UK are exempt from CGT. The Britannia and Sovereign investment coins fall into this category. The UK Customs authority has issued a notice to accountants and financial advisors numbered CG12602 which deals with exemptions and in particular currency in sterling. It refers to:
– TCGA92/S21 (1)(b) which states “Currency in sterling is not an asset for capital gains purposes”. >Learn more
– Further notice from HMRC is given in CG78308 which states “Sovereigns minted in 1837 and later years and Britannia Gold coins are currency but, like all sterling currency, are exempt because of TCGA92/S21 (1)(b) >Learn more Value Added Tax (VAT)
Coins which are of investment quality do not attract VAT. Investment quality is defined as coins which contain a minimum of 900 one thousandths Gold. (900.000 ‰). Rather than being a specifically British rule, it is in fact from the European Union. See notice number 2011/C 351/07. The notice refers to all coins from various countries which would fulfill the investment quality criteria. >Learn more


The Krugerrand 1 once

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The Krugerrand is probably the original Gold bullion coin. It was introduced in 1967 as a vehicle for private ownership of Gold whilst also being circulated as currency, hence being minted in a durable alloy. From 1980, further sizes were introduced. See specification table overleaf.

Details

pict krugerrand 1 ONCE The history of the Krugerrand begins with the South African Chamber of Mines which had the inspired idea to market South African Gold by producing a one Troy ounce bullion coin to be sold at a very low premium over the intrinsic Gold value. It was intended to be circulated as currency, hence it was minted in a more durable alloy and contained 2.826g copper to resist scratching and thus giving the coin its golden hue. At the time of launch, the Krugerrand was the only accessible Gold investment opportunity for the everyday buyer and this thought came through from the inception. It was the fi rst coin to contain exactly 1 Troy ounce of Gold.
Despite the coin’s legal tender status, economic sanctions against South Africa made the
Krugerrand an illegal import in many Western countries during the 1970s and 1980s. These sanctions ended when South Africa abandoned apartheid in 1994 and the Krugerrand once again regained its status as one of the worlds’ leading bullion coins.
In 1967, only the one ounce coin was available. From 1980, the fractions were available, namely, one half ounce, one quarter ounce and one tenth ounce. The name is derived from a combination of Paul Kruger, a well-known Boer leader and later President of the Republic and the Rand, the monetary unit of South Africa. The obverse side features the Otto Schultz image of Kruger along with the name of the country “South Africa” in the two languages, English and Afrikaans. The reverse side, designed by Coert Steynberg features the image of a Springbok Antelope, one of the national symbols of South Africa.
By 1980, the
Krugerrand accounted for 90% of the Gold investment coin market. For example, it is estimated that between 1974 and 1985, some 22 million coins were imported into the United States alone. Although it is not a beautiful coin, many millions have been sold since its introduction due to the policy of selling with a very low premium. The success of the Krugerrand led to many other Gold-producing nations minting their own bullion coins, such as the Canadian Maple Leaf in 1979, the Australian Nugget in 1981, the Chinese Panda in 1982, the US Eagle in 1987 and the British Britannia in 1987.
The
Krugerrand is interesting in that the government of South Africa has classed the coin as legal tender although it has no face value. It therefore fulfills VAT-free criteria for investment coins.

Investment Advice

There are various grading systems in use around the world. However, the British system is as follows:

investment advice krug
Essentially, the bulk of
Krugerrands are produced in a non-proof form although the South African Mint produces limited edition Proof quality Krugerrands as collector’s items. These coins in particular attract a healthy premium and are priced well above the value of the bullion alone. However, non-Proof coins also have a premium above the value of the bullion.
The Proof and non-Proof coins can be distinguished by the reeding, that is, the number of serration on the edge of the coin. Proof coins have 220, non-Proof have 180.

key facts krugerrand

Krugerrands are made of an alloy of Gold and Copper – this effect also being known as Crown Gold as it has long been used for the British Sovereign coins. Due to the popularity of the Krugerrand, there are also many fakes in existence and the investor should be wary. Copper alloy gives a much more orange appearance than silver alloy. Likewise copper is very durable and coins should be in good condition always.
The best marker of authenticity is the weight and this should be checked carefully using the table below since the Gold weight and total weight are known. Check also the reeding.

Specs

specs krugerrand
All investment coins sold by LinGOLD.com are EF quality or above.

For further information: +44 (0)203 318 5612
info@lingold.com


The Panda 1 ounce

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The Chinese Gold Panda is a popular series of Gold bullion coins issued by the People’s Republic
of China in Proof-like, brilliant uncirculated quality. They are issued in a range of sizes between
1/20 Oz and 1 Oz with larger 2 and 5 Oz coins being additionally issued in some years.

Details
panda 1 onceChina issued its first Gold coins bearing the Panda design in 1982. These were limited
to sizes of 1/10 Troy ounce along with 1/4 Toz, 1/2 Toz and 1 Toz. From 1983, the 1/20 Toz size was added and additionally a 2 Toz and 5 Toz coin is sometimes issued.
These strikingly beautiful coins are always issued in Proof-like brilliant uncirculated quality and prove very popular.
A different design was issued each year until the 2000. When the 2001 edition was announced, so too was a freeze of the design and thus the 2002 Panda is identical to the 2001. Collectors spoke up on behalf of the annual change and China responded by reversing their policy so that from 2003 onwards, the designs again change each year.
However, on the reverse side, it always features the endangered Giant Panda. It also features the size, Gold fi newness and monetary value.
The main design on the obverse of the coin has hardly changed, save for minor detail changes in the image. It features Beijing’s famous Temple of Heaven (Tien Tien) in the centre with Chinese characters on the top saying “Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo” meaning People’s Republic of China and at

the bottom the year of issue. If it is a commerative issue, the theme will also be marked here.
There was an adjustment of the face values of the coins in 2000/2001 – please see
the table overleaf for details.
The Chinese mints usually do not employ mintmarks. In certain years, there have
been minor variations in items like the size of the date, the style of the temple and
so on. These allow the numismatist to identify the originating mint. In some years,
but not all, other marks and Proof marks (signifi ed by a ‘P’) have been added. The
four mints involved in the production of the Panda are Beijing, Shanghai, Shengyang
and Shenzhen.

Investment Advice

INVESTMENT ADVICE

All Panda coins are issued as pure Gold fineness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.
However, their intrinsic beauty makes them very collectable and they attract good premiums.
As with any coin, the best quality grades will attract the best premiums. The early years in particular will be those with the highest premium. Although the coins were issued in Proof form, many were unpacked and have thus been damaged and are at lower gradings. The mintage figures should be carefully examined – the number originally minted is quoted but it has been found that production continues for various years, hence the total mintage may be quite a bit higher some years after.

SPECS

SPECS

KEY FACTS

All investment coins sold by LinGOLD.com

are EF quality or above.

For further information: +44 (0)203 318 5612
info@lingold.com

The Maple Leaf 1 once

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf is one of the oldest bullion coins alongside the Krugerrand. It is a classically beautiful coin, internationally recognised and provides investors with a secure, quality addition to a portfolio.

Details

The Royal Canadian Mint introduced the Maple Leaf in 1979. Along with the Krugerrand, it has been in continuous production ever since. It came about because of the Krugerrand – at the time, there was an economic boycott of South Africa so Krugerrands were not widely available – and thus the Maple Leaf fi lled a gap in the market. It contains virtually no base metals at all and uses Gold exclusively mined in Canada.

MAPLE LEAF 1 ONCE GOLD COIN

The earliest years between 1979 and 1981 had a Gold fineness of 999.0‰ but 1982 onwards is 999.9‰. For those same fi rst years, only a 1 Toz coin was produced. Between 1982 and 1985, the 1/4 Toz and 1/10 Toz sizes were added. Then in 1986 the 1/2 Toz was added and in 1993 a 1/20 Toz coin joined the group. It has remained thus to date except 1994 when a 1/15 Toz coin was produced for that year only. That year, a Platinum 1/15 Toz coin was also produced, possibly for jewellery, but both the Gold and Platinum 1/15 Toz coins were not a success and were dropped. The Maple Leaf is also available in Silver and Palladium.

Each coin features the image of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley on the obverse side. It also has the denomination and year of issue. On the reverse is an image of Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf along with the word CANADA and the Gold fi neness in both English and French. Every coin is guaranteed to contain the stated amount in Troy ounces of fi ne Gold. The coins are identical in design except for the obvious items such as weight.

All Maple Leaf coins are legal tender in Canada although are categorised as “non-circulating bullion coins”. Their Gold fi neness easily puts them into the general category of being VAT-exempt.

On 3rd May 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a 100 Kg Gold Maple Leaf with a face value of C$ 1 million although the Gold content makes it worth much more. The coin was produced as a promotional product to give the mint a higher international profi le. However, several interested buyers came forward so the mint announced it would manufacture to order. There are believed to be five confirmed orders and/or deliveries. It held the record for the largest coin until 2011 when an Australian coin superseded it.

Investment Advice

There are various grading systems in use around the world. However, the British system is as follows:

INVEST ADVICE

All Maple Leaf coins are issued as pure Gold finewness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.

KEY FACTS 1

However, the reality is that a 5% premium should be achieved for a quantity of coins

with higher values for individual coins. As always, the smaller value coins will have higher premiums.
The coins were never really designed to be handled due to the softness of 24 carat Gold, the milled edge and clear fi eld around the image of the Queen. With some coins supplied in tubes, this makes them susceptible to handling marks and other damage. So careful examination of coins is highly recommended.

Specs

SPECS 2

How much does 1 gram of pure gold cost ?

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Who said that only wealthy people could afford buying gold ?

  • Save from 1 gram of gold per month
  • Secure storage in Swiss vaults – FREE*
  • No administration or signup fee
Sign up for the LSP for free

Gradually build your wealth by simply buying each month a minimum of 1 gram of physical gold, for your LinGOLD Savings Plan (LSP) and benefit from freestorage in Swiss vaults outside the banking system.

How to save with the LSP?

  • Connect to your LinGOLD account or create a new account
  • Signup free to the LSP programme
  • Buy each month a minimum of 1 gram of pure gold
  • The gold you have bought is fully referenced : bar code, photograph, certificate of ownership
  • The gold is stored in a Swiss vault outside the banking system
  • You are free at any time to increase or reduce the amount of your savings, or you can unsubscribe from the LSP with no charge or prior notice.
Minimum Purchase 1g pure gold per month*
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*The storage charges levied on your gold stored in the LSP are FREE, on the condition that you buy a minimum of 1 gram of pure gold per calendar month, before the last day of each month. If the minimum monthly purchase is not made, storage charges will be applied, currently £4 per month per 200g total weight stored.

What are the products that fall within the LSP?

  • All the fractions of pure gold (1 g, 10 g, 100 g) issued from bars or gold investment coins (Britannia, Sovereign, Napoleon 20F, Napoleon 10F, Panda, Vera Valor, etc)
  • A whole coin : Vera Valor 1 ounce
  • A 1kg bar of pure gold

For further information on the LSP.

Manipulation of financial markets ?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

What’s happening with the London gold fixing ?

First, Bloomberg reported that the U.K.Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was investigating over the way gold prices were set every day in London, as the main bullion-trading centre in the world based on information from the LBMA.

Now it is the BaFin, German’s financial supervisory authority, who is actually investigating into suspected price-fixing of benchmark gold and silver prices.

images-2

One should ask ?

The facts :
It would seem that the London fix, benchmark rate used by mining companies, central banks and other companies to buy, sell and value gold, may have been subject to manipulation over the past few months.  According to some traders interviewed by Bloomberg, it seems that ‘insider trading’ around the gold fixing is potentially possible as dealers and customers exchange information. That should lead to a wider investigation into how global rates are being set.
Remember last year when the London interbank offered rate – LIBOR – was being manipulated. Would other financial markets be manipulated ?
Similar investigations would be under way in the Uk and US, no sources

actually confirmed that point.
It wouldn’t be the first time prices are being manipulated.

Ext: Mining.com


GOLD: SAVINGS AND PENSIONS

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

“Save for a rainy day.” The old adage, but does anyone do so nowadays?

“Saving” is much more likely to mean pensions nowadays, the likelihood of ever having one, and the certainty, if one has been saving towards one, that the recent and continuing bouts of Quantitative Easing (QE) have eroded it. “As much as £30,000 could be wiped off a £100,000 pension pot.” (This is Money, November, 2012)

But QE is only inflation speeded up; paper money is inflationary in and of itself over the long term, and with high tax regimes thrown in, no savings are safe. Those who remember the late 1970s will recall the prudent people who realised that money sitting in the bank was money evaporating, so they reasoned: why not spend it? Slap up meals, theatre tickets, luxury holidays – use it now before it is gone. During the Weimar inflation, industrial wages were eventually paid on the hour, with workers rushing out to spend them before they lost such value as they had by the second.

Converting your savings into gold sounds good, but – those ingots?? Is gold for the ordinary person?

Connect to LinGold.com (either click here, or on the box below this article) and find out. Signing up as a Member of the LinGold Savings Plan at a minimum purchase of 1gm of gold per month gives you a foot on the gold savings ladder: the cost of 1gm of gold compares favourably with the cost of, say, travel passes on London transport. Figures for 2012 on average household expenditure give the highest weekly cost as transport at £65.70, with half of that going on running a car; weekly expenditure on groceries averaged £44.20, with 80% being spent at supermarkets – doubtless because of the loyalty schemes and loss leaders that help keep prices down, as well as all the other prices wars that the supermarkets are more or less permanently engaged in.

Gold therefore, if saved for nothing other than the rainy day of retirement, compares very well with other necessary expenditures. After saving money on the weekly shop at the supermarket, it would be well to consider putting the balance into gold – and thanks to the unique LinGold.com Savings Plan, you too can do it! The democratization of gold is here to stay.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD STANDARDS III

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

I have discussed in Gold is Money, and the previous Gold Standards I and II the advantages of understanding that gold is not a commodity, that it is money that serves the usual purposes of money, as a store of value and a means of exchange, but with the vital difference that it also serves as a standard unit of measurement. The latter function is owed to its intrinsic qualities.

However, in Paper Money Collapse, Detlev Schlichter expounds Carl Menger’s view that gold, like all other things that people have found a use-value for, can indeed be considered a commodity, at least in historical terms. (I have looked at this book twice before in Gold Money A Currency of the Past and What Are Banks For?)

How does this argument work? Menger, says Schlichter, that “money could only have come into existence as a commodity”. It was not the creation of the State, there were no issuing authorities; money arose from mutual trading activities in which all commodities had a use-value. Without that use-value, no commodity was worth anything. Schlichter explains:

“For something to be used, for the very first time, as a medium of exchange, a point of reference is needed as to what its value in exchange for other goods and services is at that moment. It must have already acquired some value before it is used as money for the first time. That value can only be its use-value as a commodity, as a useful good in its own right. But once a commodity has become an established medium of exchange, its value will no longer be determined by its use-value as a commodity alone but also, and ultimately predominantly, by the demand for its services as money. But only something that has already established a market value as a commodity can make the transition to being a medium of exchange.”

Gold the Supreme Embodiment of Value

This anthropological-historical understanding of the emergence of money puts the market, trading, at the heart of the valuation process. Which, in turn, reminds us that the ultimate source of value, what something is worth, is its value to the parties, few or numerous, who engage in the transaction. So what in turn is required of a monetary medium, a currency, is a value that as far as possible stands outside that arbitrary subjectivity. Money itself, whatever its currency embodiment, is an attempt to render value objective in that the currency can be used in any exchanges, unlike bartering.

So in turn, the more objective the currency can become, the more it can become a standard (and this is where it is easy to see why it therefore becomes a unit of measurement), the more reliable, the more valuable that currency unit becomes.

And again, in turn, it is easy to see why gold quickly established itself as the supreme embodiment of exchange value: “it is no surprise that throughout the ages and through all cultures, whenever people were left to their own devices and free to choose which good should be used as money, they most always came to use precious metals.”

Gold is Money

Historically then we can enlarge Turk’s and Rubino’s contention that gold is not a commodity, not at least a commodity like oil or eggs, by allowing that the currency standard will have had a life as an object with use-value until other properties lead people to realise that it may have a value above its use-value. People have become familiar with these properties until it is singled out in use as being dominated by these properties and becomes money.

And the dominant characteristic of gold is its stability: soon all other characteristics were subordinated to this one, thereby changing not its nature but its purpose.

Of course, gold can be re-commodified as jewellery or ornament, as Jocelyn Burton, gold– and silversmith, demonstrates in her extraordinary work. People will always have these uses for gold, which are not intrinsically opposed to its properties as money: jewellery after all carries a premium and can, somewhat philistinely perhaps, be regarded as a form of storage, but then this form of storage shares with gold coins the property of portability.

And money can be re-subjectivised, in the past by mutilating it, clipping and shaving gold and silver coinage; and in the present of course the rolling of the printing presses with paper money has made money supremely subjective, its value becoming volatile and it storage properties destroyed.

It may be objected that we have little ancient anthropological evidence for this process, but we do not need to rely upon this as merely an explanation of what “must have happened”, we need only look at how those living in a territory with a devalued currency deal with the depredations of their government: in the twentieth century they have singled out dollars. When I asked an acquaintance from Zimbabwe how Zimbabweans coped with all those noughts, he laughed and said: “We just use dollars.”

The idea that money, and gold as money, emerged from the free trades of people going about their ordinary business also helps explain the deep disdain for gold in today’s political establishment: the idea that people are incapable of looking after themselves has become rooted in modern political thinking.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD STANDARDS II

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By Mark Rogers

In Gold is Money and Gold Standards I looked at the consequences of accepting that gold is not a commodity but rather money. I suggested in the former article that the confusion between a commodity with a price, and money with an exchange value, was part and parcel of the confusions that arise out of the corruption of money, its worth and functions that result from a command economy and its fiat currency.

Here’s a splendid example of this linguistic confusion, straight from the horse’s mouth; in remarks to the National Economists Club, Washington, D.C. on November 21, 2002, Bernard Bernanke said:

“[T]he U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services. We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.” [My emphasis; and I shall be making a longer scrutiny of this talk in a later article.]

Talk of “positive inflation” is irresponsible, but it’s what you get when the printing press or its electronic equivalent is set rolling.

Language and Loans

In “Gold is Money” I went on to examine other possible misuses of language in discussing money and value. I raised the issue of whether it was proper to consider the interest one pays on a loan as being in effect the price of the loan, and whether or not the money constituting the loan is in fact sold to one: if it is, then “price” would seem to be the better way to describe the transaction.

Except that this in turn produces confusion, largely because service professions, such as banks, have come to be described in industrial or retail terms: banks have “products” which they “sell” to “customers”.

But this is nonsense: banks don’t manufacture anything, and do not buy in their “goods” at “wholesale” prices which they then try to “sell” at competitive rates.

Take mortgages: if you have one it is on condition that the bank or building society offers to remove a portion of your income every month over a period of years, and if you fail to fund this activity, your house is taken away from you. This is not a “product”. Why do you think you have got one, though? Because you have been beguiled by a metaphor.

Interest and Prices

I suggested: “In considering how we speak about value and prices and fiat money and borrowing and cheap and dear money, it might concentrate the mind if we did indeed speak of the “cost” of a loan, the “price” the bank charges us for lending, or perhaps selling, to us.”

This thought experiment was intended to throw into relief just how we think about what constitutes monetary transactions: there is an important moral sense in which it would concentrate the mind to think about “costs” if credit is extended for non-productive reasons.

When money is “dear” it is likely that the chief criterion for extending credit will be the purpose to which the loan is to be put. If it is for business expansion, say new plant, or into a new market, then the likelihood that the venture will produce a substantial return on the loan means two things: the loan is more likely to be repaid, and that after the loan is repaid the firm will have made a profit on that loan.

The problem comes with credit extended for consumption (and under consumption we most definitely must include homes that are not affordable outright): this is wholly an academic affair. Keynesian economists have persuaded governments that consumption equals an expanding economy (and note again the point in Bernanke’s talk that I emphasized: “a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation”). But the question needs to be asked: why do economists think that expense means expanse?

Credit lines extended purely for consumption end up damaging economies. In buying things now that one could not afford without the credit does not add to economic activity, it simply stokes up the personal indebtedness of the debtor and increases the book entries on the bank’s accounts. Because the money has to be paid back out of earnings, not production, it increases the likelihood of the debt being unaffordable and ultimately written off.

There is another problem here: credit lines for consumption imply that there is no real criterion: one’s present income hardly counts because it might not be there when the debt has to be repaid. No, the real irresponsibility is that the loan’s the thing, in and of itself, not whether it will be turned to productive purposes – that is used to make something that wasn’t there before. Failing to see that this distinction needs to be made is what makes Bernanke’s remarks so irresponsible.

Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that governments themselves do not produce anything: there are some seven million people who work for the British government, on average higher salaries than those in the private sector and with gold plated pensions (insofar as an unfunded liability can be said to be “gold plated” – the latter phrase really means that the government won’t break its promises to look after its own). These people produce nothing.

So while consumers intending to consume above earnings are anxious to find low interest loans to fund extra, unproductive consumption, it might indeed concentrate their minds to talk about prices, because that might put the nature of what they are doing into perspective.

In the serious world of productive business, however, interest is the proper term to use: the bank takes depositors’ funds and lends them at interest to enterprises that have been considered on balance likely to succeed for the purposes of the loan. In 100% reserve banking this process would perhaps be a great deal more transparent. And using gold as the ever-present unit of measurement will tell us what our money is really worth.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

THE GOLD SPOT: RICARDO ON GOLD AS VALUE

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extracts from ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION by David Ricardo, from the collected Works and Correspondence edited by Piero Sraffa with the collaboration of M.H. Dobb, published for The Economic Society by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1951

Adam Smith, after most ably showing the insufficiency of a variable medium, such as gold and silver, for the purpose of determining the varying value of other things, has himself, by fixing on corn or labour, chosen a medium no less variable.

Gold and silver are no doubt subject to fluctuations, from the discovery of new and more abundant mines; but such discoveries are rare, and their effects, though powerful, are limited to periods of comparatively short duration. They are subject also to fluctuation, from improvements in the skill and machinery with which the mines may be worked; as in consequence of such improvements, a greater quantity may be obtained with the same labour. They are further subject to fluctuation from the decreasing produce of the mines, after they have yielded a supply to the world, for a succession of ages. But from which of these sources of fluctuation is corn exempted? [Chapter I On Value, Section I]

It has therefore been justly observed, that however honestly the coin of a country may conform to its standard, money made of gold and silver is still liable to fluctuations in value, not only accidental and temporary, but to permanent and natural variations, the same manner as other commodities.

By the discovery of America and the rich mines in which it abounds, a very great effect was produced on the natural price of the precious metals. This effect is by many supposed not yet to have terminated. It is probable, however, that all the effects on the value of the metals, resulting from the discovery of America, have long ceased; and if any fall has of late years taken place in their value, it is to be attributed to improvements in the mode of working the mines.

From whatever cause it may have proceeded, the effect has been so slow and gradual, that little practical inconvenience has been felt from gold and silver being the general medium in which the value of all other things is estimated. Though undoubtedly a variable measure of value, there is probably no commodity subject to fewer variations. This and the other advantages which these metals possess, such as their hardness, their malleability, their divisibility, and many more, have justly secured the preference every where given to them, as a standard for the money of civilized countries.

If equal quantities of labour, with equal quantities of fixed capital, could at all times obtain, from that mine which paid no rent, equal quantities of gold, gold would be as nearly an invariable measure of value, as we could in the nature of things possess. The quantity indeed would enlarge with the demand, but it value would be invariable, and it would be eminently well calculated to measure the varying value of all other things. I have already in a former part of this work considered gold as endowed with this uniformity […] In speaking therefore of varying price, the variation will be always considered as being in the commodity, and never in the medium in which it is estimated. [Chapter III On the Rent of Mines]

Comment: Apart from the importance Ricardo attached to machines cropping up in this discussion (his famous Chapter XXXI On Machinery), the interesting thing to note in these passages is that the argument with Adam Smith about sources of value devolves on gold as having the least variability when compared to other possible sources. Smith laid so much stress on corn, partly because it is a staple foodstuff and people must eat, and partly because the labour used to plant and harvest it was an easily quantifiable volume of work; Smith’s theory of value ultimately depended on labour, because the fact, the necessity of labour is an everyday constant.

Ricardo took exception to both corn and labour as measures of value, because the fact that both are necessary does not therefore bar them from continual accident and misfortune: exceptionally bad weather before a harvest destroys not only the crop but the need for labour at all, and has almost the same complete effect should bad weather occur during the harvest. The resulting famine may cause seed prices for next year’s crop to go up. That people must work for a living may be a constant, but their ability to work at any given time is contingent. Similarly, improvements in machinery may have a longer term effect on labour even as these improvements increase the harvest in a good year.

Therefore, these cannot be units of measurement of value: they fluctuate, or are capable of fluctuating too wildly.

The subject was to crop up again in Ricardo’s “Notes on Malthus”, where he takes issue with the gloomy Mr Malthus’s misreading of the points Ricardo makes above, in particular Malthus’s overlooking the qualifications about gold being “nearly an invariable measure of value” and his consequent assumption that Ricardo meant that as things stood, here and now, gold was such a measure. Indeed, Ricardo gets so hot under the collar in pointing out to Malthus that he had not been so simple as to claim this that he practically reverses himself as expressed above, almost implying that gold has no such intrinsic virtue! But indeed, he was quite cross with Mr Malthus all round; he did, in correspondence, express himself as being even less pleased with Malthus’s book on his second reading than he had been on first reading it, his further disgruntlement with Malthus leading to the “Notes”.

What is important about Ricardo’s quarrel with Adam Smith is that it is a very early rebuttal of the notion of labour as the source of value, and an equally important claim for precious metals as that source, as being the closest thing we are ever likely to possess for the purpose. That this claim is hedged with qualifications demonstrates two things: a prudent mind, and, secondly, that the major and long term experiments with paper money lay, of course, well in the future, i.e. the Twentieth Century. What Ricardo was doing was to estimate which of all possible sources of value, supposing such a measure to be desirable (and he concludes that it is), would best serve. There are obvious attractions in Adam Smith’s approach: it is practical, deals in vital constants of human action, and is empirical. But in the end it is insufficient. There is a discussion of paper currency in Ricardo’s book but it is fairly narrowly focused, as the experience of it in his day was narrowly focused, primarily on its promissory nature in terms of specie. Nothing like what we have experienced in the Twentieth Century was available to the political economists of the Eighteenth Century.

Nowadays, while accommodating the arguments to prudence as is always desirable, a stronger case for gold as “nearly an invariable measure of value” can and must be made because the realities foisted upon us by the advocates and practitioners of paper have been so dire.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD STANDARDS

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

The proposition was examined in the last posting, Gold is Money, that gold is not a commodity or at least not in the sense that other commodities are (a distinction that will be looked at in a later posting). This proposition leads to an important observation, that gold is a unit of measurement, but an even more momentous observation arises from this: that whether there exists a gold standard of the classic kind (England from the end of the Seventeenth Century up to 1914, for the world at large 1870 to 1914) or the more controversial gold exchange standard of the interwar years, or the patched up standard of Bretton Woods, as a unit of measurement gold always provides a standard.

As long as gold remains largely in private hands and circulates, its exchange value determined by the markets, with banks holding a modicum of gold reserves, then gold will act as the benchmark against which currencies are measured, its prime function in a world of debased paper currencies to tell us what those currencies are actually worth, a bellwether that provides the information we need about how we manage our assets and how we exchange them for the safe haven.

There is another aspect of this, therefore, that throws up an interesting answer to the question that Turk and Rubino ask in their book discussed in “Gold is Money”. They point out that all paper currencies have collapsed and the reaction of governments has been, perhaps to confiscate wealth, perhaps to tighten currency controls, to generally adopt measures limiting the freedom of action of their subjects.

But this time round, it may not be governments who will take the initiative. The likelihood that the US government will confiscate gold as it did in 1933 must be set against the far less trusting, more cynical attitude of the general public towards government.

Gold has been remonetized in Utah, the Swiss People’s Party recently won the right to a referendum on the Swiss National Bank’s ability to sell off gold reserves, and the same party is arguing for a Swiss gold franc as circulating currency.

More and more people are realising how gold may be managed in such a way that investors are, in effect, re-inventing a free gold standard for the conduct of their monetary and financial affairs. Another example of a spontaneous order emerging? Let us hope so.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLD IS MONEY: DOES IT HAVE A PRICE?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

I recently looked at the question of why there has been no price rise in gold commensurate with Central Banks’ buying? This was raised at this year’s Money Week conference and caused some puzzlement. But perhaps there is another way of looking at the issue, one found in James Turk’s and John Rubino’s The Coming Collapse of the Dollar (see an earlier mention Gold and Permanent Value).

At the very beginning of their book, they insist that gold is money. “Generally, when gold is mentioned in the financial media, people refer to its ‘price’. This is incorrect, because gold is not a commodity like oil or eggs. […] And since we don’t talk about the ‘price’ of euros or yen, but instead discuss their exchange rate, in this book we treat gold in the same way, as in ‘gold’s exchange rate was $410 per ounce on December 31.’”

Gold is not a commodity?

It is often assumed that money has three basic functions: it serves as a store of value, a means of exchange and can itself be exchanged. If this latter function is a true function of money, then this means that money is a commodity along with its other two functions.

Now, it is not true, as Messrs Turk and Rubino claim, that “we don’t talk about the ‘price’ of euros or yen”, because we do. The Money Changers not far from me advertise their wares on electronic price boards, and against the currencies on offer are ranged two columns: “We Buy” and “We Sell”. It is very common to talk of the prices of currencies and to treat them as commodities: it is possible to make money by watching the exchange rates and converting into favorable currencies and back again, making a profit on the way. (It is probably safest to do this in a Swiss bank, as a friend of mine used to do.)

We also speak of cheap money and dear money: what do we mean? Cheap money is when monetary policy is loose, people are exhorted to borrow and encouraged to do so by low interest rates; dear money is when policy is tight and lenders aren’t lending or only cautiously, and interest rates are concomitantly high. Is interest not, therefore, the “price” we pay for the money we have borrowed? While Turk and Rubino assert that we talk of exchange rates rather than prices, it would seem odd, would it not, if we were to talk of the exchange rate of pounds for pounds that we pay for bank loans? And if “the price of money” in terms of interest makes better sense when dealing in and with a domestic currency, and “exchange rate” makes better sense when we are swapping unlike for unlike, even if it is still currency rather than oil or eggs, then where does that leave gold: as a commodity or as not a commodity?

Assets and Exchange

However, this is not to be pedantic; sometimes it pays to split a hair, and in the case of the puzzle referred to in the first paragraph, it may be highly instructive to do so.

For Turk and Rubino point out two other incontestable matters, which throw a lot of light on this vexed problem of what money actually is and therefore how it behaves and we must speak of it. In the first place, if money is not to be considered a commodity, it is indubitably a standard of value – “a generally agreed-upon measurement used to express the price of goods and services.” And this measurement is of the same order as other standard units of measurement: feet and inches, pints and gallons, ells and yards, perches, furlongs and chains. Some of these units have been abolished or fallen into disuse, but as standard units of measurement – and here is the rub – they do not change over time. An ell has ever been an ell, even if no longer used; nor do we change our feet daily.

Now it follows from this that, when it comes to a unit of measurement that is a medium of exchange, that is money, “only money can extinguish an exchange for some good and service. That is, an exchange is extinguished when assets are exchanged for assets. If you accept a money substitute (for instance dollars) when you sell a product, the exchange is not extinguished until you use those money substitutes (those dollars) to purchase some other good or service.”

We begin to get to the heart of the matter: money substitutes. These are what cause the confusion, because by definition they are not money itself only its token or emblem. We take for granted that money takes the form of currency, and are liable in our paper age to therefore confuse “money as currency” with money itself. But currency as such is merely the instrument of exchange unless it also happens to be specie: that is, if gold (and/or silver) is the standard unit of value and gold passes in the form of gold coins, then there is no distinction between the standard of value (gold) and how it is represented (gold coins): the currency IS the money.

Furthermore, if the most important function of money is as a standard of value then it is possible to say that money is not a commodity, though it is still a store of value and a medium of exchange. To illustrate the point about units of measurement (standard of value) Turk and Rubino point out the unchanging nature of gold: “A gram of gold has bought roughly the same amount of wheat since the Middle Ages.” (A similar point is made about ounces of gold, Pharaonic oxen and contemporary oxen in “Gold, A Different Point of View”.)

Gold Is Money

We can begin to see how the question that puzzled the Money Week conference might be viewed, and in particular what gave rise to it, the observation that since the “price” collapse, central banks had been buying gold hand over fist and yet the price hadn’t moved. If gold is not a commodity, but is rather money, is the unit of measurement for value, then to look at gold as having an exchange rate is very fruitful: what it now tells us is just how bad the dollar is. If the unit of measurement doesn’t change, and the number of dollars or pounds that are measured against it is greater or smaller than it was, say, yesterday, or an hour ago, we are being told something about the currency, in this case a money substitute, and not the gold.

It is easy to grasp what is going on when gold goes through the roof, but we need to change our metaphor: gold has stayed where it was, it just takes more dollars or pounds (which, remember, today are money substitutes) to exchange for an ounce. Now, adopting Turk’s and Rubino’s vocabulary, the exchange rate of the dollar against gold fell in April, though it was still high compared to four or eight years ago. In the following weeks, notwithstanding the boom in the purchase of gold coins (away from ETFs) and the purchases of central banks, that exchange rate remained stable: commodities don’t behave like that, especially not scarce ones. So we were instead being told something about the dollar. The unit of measurement wasn’t behaving obdurately. Therefore, was what happened in April, not a calamity for gold, but a respite for the dollar?

Prices versus Exchange Rates

In considering how we speak about value and prices and fiat money and borrowing and cheap and dear money, it might concentrate the mind if we did indeed speak of the “cost” of a loan, the “price” the bank charges us for lending, or perhaps selling, to us. My bank lends me (sells me) £5,000 pounds over three years, with total interest of £760, and everybody commends me on my bank – what a reasonable rate of interest! But if instead I was to boast that I had bought £5,000 for £5,760, well, that wouldn’t seem such a good deal. It is because it is repayable over a term (over which of course, thanks to inflation, the inevitable accompaniment of money substitutes, it will in fact be costing more) that one doesn’t quite realize what has been “exchanged” or “bought”.

This of course raises the intriguing possibility that in getting our nomenclature as much as our metaphors backwards in speaking of money, we are indulging in loose talk, and that this in turn may be a result and feature of fiat money systems.

In What is Money? I raised the issue of the relation between money, value and property:

“The idea that money is a realisation of value inherent in property means currency is the result of a property holding system which, to be realisable, must have clear title. Then, on the basis of that title, the value of the asset can be ascertained and then realised as capital which then has a representational form as currency. That is, money as a representation of value, as a means of realising that value and being a store of that value is the result of a legal system that can render property fungible – that is, that the asset can be more than one thing.

“This, of course, means that property is a form of savings, and that savings are therefore at the root of money. […] The failure to realise the necessity of savings and their wider functions in a workable economy is at the root of the financial crisis.”

And the hostility to savings translates into hostility to gold and the failure to understand it as a unit of measurement. Turk and Rubino are right: gold is not a commodity and in realising this we may start to understand the dense fogs of the currency wars.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

THE GOLD SPOT: GOLD THE REFERENCE POINT

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The Gold Spot is a regular feature in which Mark Rogers excerpts a passage from his reading as the Text for the Day and then comments on it.

Extract from CURRENCY WARS: THE MAKING OF THE NEXT GLOBAL CRISIS by James Rickards, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, 2011

The continuation of the trend toward a diminished role for the dollar in international trade and the reserve balances begs the question of what happens when the dollar is no longer dominant but is just another reserve currency among several others? What is the tipping point for the dollar? […]

Barry Eichengreen is the preeminent scholar on this topic and a leading proponent of the view that a world of multiple reserve currencies awaits […] the plausible and benign conclusion that a world of multiple reserve currencies with no single dominant currency […] this time with the dollar and the euro sharing the spotlight instead of the dollar and sterling. This view also opens the door to further changes over time, with the Chinese yuan eventually joining the dollar and the euro in a coleading role.

What is missing in Eichengreen’s optimistic interpretation is the role of a systemic anchor, such as the dollar or gold. As the dollar and sterling were trading places in the 1920s and 1930s, there was never a time when at least one was not anchored to gold. In effect, the dollar and sterling were substitutable because of their simultaneous equivalence to gold. Devaluations did occur, but after each devaluation the anchor was reset. After Bretton Woods, the anchor consisted of the dollar and gold, and since 1971 the anchor has consisted of the dollar as the leading reserve currency. Yet in the post-war world there has always been a reference point. Never before have multiple paper reserve currencies been used with no single anchor. Consequently, the world […] is a world of reserve currencies adrift. Instead of a single central bank like the Fed abusing its privileges, it will be open season with several central banks invited to do the same at once. In that scenario, there would be no safe harbour reserve currency and markets would be more volatile and unstable.

Comment: It is hard to fathom such an unrealistic expectation of lead currencies, swilling about supporting each other and every other currency, as being somehow optimistic and benign; Rickards is not saying that he thinks they would be by using these terms, he is pointing up the authors of these expectations as hailing them as benign: what could go wrong, we’re all good chaps…aren’t we?

Rickards’s view is of a piece with Gustav Cassel’s point (quoted in Gold on the Outbreak of the Great War), that “the responsibility for the value of the currency, in cases where the gold standard has been abandoned, must exclusively lie with those in whose hands rests this provision of the means of payment.” The point being that this is an astonishing level of trust to put into the institutions of government, not just moral trust, but a trust that the necessary calculations, observations and measurements can be made consistently and continuously to keep things afloat and stable. The euro is a very good object lesson that both these sorts of trust are misplaced, which is putting it mildly…

From an Austrian School point of view, the goodness of the humans in charge is irrelevant: it is the utterly impossible nature of the task that is the stumbling block. But it is just there, of course, that the immoral temptation to swing things to the state’s advantage comes to the fore – again as shown up by the euro.

Where there is no reference point, no anchor, no solution is feasible… which is why we keep getting  more of the failed nostrums. Which leads on to a very interesting observation: why taxes must go up in an economic world divorced from the gold standard.

Politicians are incapable of managing monetary affairs (see the article linked to below on The Mess We’re In: Why Politicians Can’t Fix Financial Crises). The gold standard prevented them by and large from acting on economic hubris. Unconstrained by gold, bewildered by their failures, corrupted by their power, they turn to the one nostrum that lies unfailingly to their hand: taxation. That is why it is found important at times of high and progressive taxation to denounce “avoiders” as selfish cheats who won’t do their bit for their fellow citizens (see my The Moral Dilemma at the Heart of Taxation). So the gold standard not only prevented printing money, it also held down taxation. Another reason to vote for gold!

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

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"For a mountaineer, the important things are the effort, the posture and the muscles. The rope that holds him serves no purpose when everything works but it gives him a sense of security. In the same way, all gold does is ensure confidence; it's a safe haven."