A Return to Stable Money Requires More Intellectual Gasoline
October 4, 2012
(This item originally appeared in Forbes.com on October 4, 2012.)
This year, I’ve been making an effort to meet personally with a
number of people who have been prominent advocates of a stable-money
policy in the U.S – instead of the funny-money policy we have today.
After all, this was the way we did things in this country for nearly
two centuries, until 1971. It’s the American Way.
One theme I have heard several times is that we need more
broad-based support, more media exposure and, especially, some
political champions to make it happen here in the U.S. It seems like
nobody except Ron Paul wants to carry that flag. (Note to
Congresspeople: Ron Paul keeps getting re-elected year after year.)
But, I don’t see things that way.
What I see is: quite a lot of broad-based support, among the voting
public, centering mostly on the Tea Party types. I see a lot more
support than one would normally see for a topic which has been “so
unpopular.” The regular voting public has always known what’s what,
even if they are not able to easily express it. They know that funny
money isn’t in their long-term benefit. It never has been, in any
culture or civilization over millennia of time.
I also see – although some would disagree – a core group of
libertarian-leaning Congresspeople and others who are, actually,
ready to carry the football into the endzone.
What I don’t see is: the football.
Politicians aren’t supposed to be intellectuals. (Even if they are,
in fact, intellectuals.) They are representatives of broadly-held
desires and beliefs. They stand at the front of the crowd, you could
say, or at the peak of a pyramid. They need something to stand upon,
a “political platform,” which consists of specific ideas and popular
What I see today is the need for a lot more material from the
intellectuals. Basically, this means books. Books – not opeds, not
speeches, not magazine articles – are the way we traditionally
express ideas in detail. This doesn’t mean that the other stuff
isn’t also important. It is. But you need books. The other forms of
communication serve, often, as ways to encourage people to learn
more about a subject – from a book – or to comment on ideas –
explained in detail in a book – or to relate current events to ideas
… found in a book.
And, they can’t be silly books full of nonsense. There is,
unfortunately, a whole lot of nonsense written about gold standard
systems these days, including university textbooks on economics.
The United States did not become a world superpower with a nonsense
In the little world of gold standard advocacy in the English
language, most of the books date from the 1960s and 1970s. Despite
their merits, they are also, in my opinion, filled with error. This
isn’t going to do the job.
That’s why I took several years myself and wrote a book, Gold:
the Once and Future Money. There was no other book out
there that I could point to and say: “Here, read this.”
There’s a lot of material in that book – it has about twice as many
words as publishers recommend – but there is a lot more still to
say, on many topics. That’s why I also have a website, with hundreds
of thousands of words of additional text and hundreds of charts and
But one book – and one author – is not enough. This is politics, and
politics requires consensus. We will need a core group of
intellectuals, who agree on enough points that a consensus forms
that will serve as part of a political “platform.” And, these
intellectuals need to write books, so that other people can see what
Too much is done today on the oral tradition. That is, literally,
what it is. In this post-Gutenberg age, we have some better
Thus, we need what I call the “shelf of books,” from different
authors. It doesn’t have to be a big shelf. About twelve good books,
recently written, would be enough.
They can’t be old books and they can’t be books filled with economic
I encouraged a friend at a mainstream conservative think tank to
write up one of their detailed policy papers on how they would
recommend setting up a new gold standard system in the U.S. They
have detailed policy papers on healthcare reform, social security
reform and tax reform, so why not monetary reform? Or do they think
the present system is so close to perfection that it cannot be
improved? These are smart people, and if they spent some time with
it, they would sift out the nonsense and probably come up with a
good solution. This does not have to be a declaration of political
support. It could be done on a “contingency basis,” the way the
military makes plans for things that it feels are unlikely, but not
The American Principles Project, which I call the “Tea Party’s think
tank,” has just released two
white papers about monetary reform. Read and discuss! That’s
how it’s supposed to work.
Lewis Lehrman has just finished his most
recent book on the topic, which was available in short-format
form last year.  That makes two books on our shelf. Great.
I hear that George Gilder, who released the influential Wealth and
Poverty in 1981, has gained a growing appreciation for the
importance of monetary reform. Maybe Gilder will put his excellent
research and communication skills to work and produce a new work on
How about Alan Greenspan? Throughout his debates with Ron Paul in
the 1990s, he hinted that he remained a closet gold standard
advocate. With nothing to lose now, perhaps Greenspan might tell us
what he really thinks.
Greenspan has many critics, for good reason. However, I think many
do not appreciate that the dollar’s value was about the same, vs.
gold, at the end of his 18-year tenure as it was at the beginning.
Not a coincidence.
If anything, I find that the people who embrace this topic most
wholeheartedly are younger people. Ron Paul reports that university
students will, with no prompting on his part, begin chanting “End
the Fed” when he turns up. Is there someone in their twenties who
might want to expand that idea beyond three words? I’m surprised
that university students even know what “the Fed” is.
Generation X and Y may have noticed that their elders have made a
mess of quite a few things, and our monetary system is no exception.
And – they may have noticed – their elders are not so good at fixing
it either. So figure it out. You can do it.
I did it.
When we have that “shelf of books,” the broad public support base
will be able to point to the shelf of books and say “I agree with
that.” The media will respond because the formation of an
identifiable broad consensus is now “news.” Then, a politician will
sense that they have both the intellectual support and grassroots
political support to carry a policy position forward. At that point
– not before! — they will do so. (Ron Paul and Jack Kemp were
exceptions, because they were intellectuals themselves.)
We’ve done this before. In 1879, the U.S. went to a gold standard
system after 19 years of floating currencies. In 1821, Britain went
to a gold standard system after 23 years of floating currencies. In
1944, most of the world went to an official gold standard system
after various unsuccessful experiments during the 1930s. In 1949-50,
Germany, China and Japan all went to a gold standard system after
hyperinflation in all three countries.
We will do it again. It’s not that complicated. But, the process
would be accelerated considerably if we had the intellectual
gasoline that the political mechanism requires, to operate at full