Given our earlier discussion of Nobel winner Sargent’s comments on Greece and the gold standard, and the ongoingmelt-up in asset markets due to the ‘limitless money-printing’ of central banks around the world, we thought it worth a look at what a gold standard is (and is not). Before 1974, U.S. dollars were backed by gold. This meant that the federal government could not print more money than it could redeem for gold. While this constrained the federal government, it also provided citizens with a relatively stable purchasing power for goods and services. Today’s paper currency has no intrinsic value.
It is not based on the value of gold or anything else. Under a gold standard, inflation was really limited. With floating value, or fiat, currency, however, some countries have seen inflation reach extremely high levels—sometimes enough to lead to economic collapse. Gold standards have historically provided more stable currencies with lower inflation than fiat currency. Professor Larry White asks, should the United States return to a gold standard?