Gold as anchor and economic reference point

Former U.S. Republican Party vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp is making a case for a return to the gold standard in order to stabilise the dollar and avoid a future economic calamity.

Others have warned in similar terms:
  • Ronald Reagan once said he knew of no great nation in history that went off the gold standard and remained great.

  • When the U.S. in 1971 ceased to redeem dollars held by foreign governments for gold, economist Milton Friedman called the situation "unprecedented" and said it is "not a long-term viable alternative." The world, he said, "needs a long-term anchor of some kind."

    Kemp acknowledges that America has so far avoided catastrophe. But he cites instances of the drawbacks of having no gold standard.

  • When the U.S. ceased redeeming gold at $35 an ounce, its price quadrupled on world markets to $140 – followed in 1973 by a quadrupling of OPEC oil prices.

  • That prompted stagflation, wage and price controls, and high marginal tax rates.

  • He believes that energy price hikes now working their way through the economy are being misconstrued by the Federal Reserve as inflation and charges that central bank errors in the discretionary management of floating fiat currencies have put the entire world economy at risk.

  • Kemp argues that without a gold standard, the Fed has no means of determining how much liquidity markets demand – and all it does by targeting interest rates is guess how much liquidity to inject or withdraw to counteract mistakes it made earlier.

    Under a gold standard, he suggests the Fed stop targeting interest rates and begin targeting gold directly – not by fixing the price of gold by administrative fiat, but by calibrating the level of liquidity in the economy to keep the market price of gold stable within a narrow band closer to $325 than $275.

    The Fed would add liquidity by buying bonds when the price of gold tries to fall and subtract liquidity by selling bonds when the price of gold tries to rise.

    Source: Jack Kemp (Empower America), Our Economy Needs a Golden Anchor, Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2001.

    For text (WSJ subscribers)

    For more on Federal Reserve Monetary Policy

    RSA Note:
    The Free Market Foundation today releases the monograph The euro, the dollar, the rand and gold by Dr Richard Grant who argues for a role for gold in stabilising the purchasing power of the rand. Jack Kemp provides much the same reasons in his call for a return to the gold standard by the U.S.A.. What both Jack Kemp and Richard Grant are attempting to bring home to policy makers is that money is merely a medium of exchange and that currency manipulation should not be seen as a mechanism for bringing about economic growth – on the contrary, a currency manipulated for this purpose becomes an unstable economic disruptor. Currency manipulation that is bound to disrupt an economy occurs either by manipulation of the base money supply (usually by excessive issue of notes and coins) or by interest rate manipulation. In the final analysis a stable currency is the best medium of exchange, assists in bringing about the highest economic growth rates, and promotes foreign investment and trade. As the world’s largest gold producer South Africa has everything to gain from re-establishing a role for gold in its own and the world’s currencies.

    (Eustace Davie, Director, Free Market Foundation. The patrons, council and members of the Foundation do not necessarily agree with the views expressed in this note).

    (See News Archives - Dr Richard Grant Index the rand to stabilise its international purchasing power)

    FMF\3 July 2001
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