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An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense — perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire — that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other.
In order to understand the source of their antagonism, it is necessary first to understand the specific role of gold in a free society.
Money is the common denominator of all economic transactions. It is that commodity which serves as a medium of exchange, is universally acceptable to all participants in an exchange economy as payment for their goods or services, and can, therefore, be used as a standard of market value and as a store of value, i.e., as a means of saving.
… the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale.
Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government’s promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit.
…In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation.
…This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.
Mr. Greenspan’s remarks at the council were not the first time he gave us a glimpse of his views on gold. He discusses gold on several pages of his memoir, “The Age of Turulence,” reminding that he once told a Congressional committee that “monetary policy should make even a fiat money economy behave ‘as though anchored by gold.’” He wrote that he had “always harbored a nostalgia for the gold standard’s inherent price stability.” But he confesses that he’s “long since acquiesced in the fact that the gold standard does not readily accommodate the widely accepted current view of the appropriate functions of government — in particular the need for government to provide a social safety net."
The American people, he asserted in his book, have for the most part “tolerated the inflation bias as an acceptable cost of the modern welfare state.” And he claimed, “There is no support for the gold standard today, and I see no likelihood of its return.”