While many people believe the United States should adopt a gold standard to guard against inflation or deflation, and stabilize the economy, there are several reasons why this reform would not work. However, there is a modern adaptation of the gold standard that could achieve a stable price level and avoid the many disruptions brought upon the economy by monetary instability.
Let's start by clearing up some common misconceptions. Congressman Ron Paul's attraction to gold, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's biggest criticism, is that a gold standard implies an end to monetary policy and the Federal Reserve. It does not.
Under a gold standard, the U.S. Treasury could exchange dollars for gold at a price of, say, $1,000 per ounce. In practice, that means banks would freely exchange their dollar accounts at the Fed for electronic claims to gold.
Nevertheless, the Fed could still buy government debt or other securities in exchange for newly created reserves, lend its reserves to banks, and set interest rates on its loans to banks. A gold standard would not stop the Fed from being the lender of last resort, bank regulator and financial crisis firehouse.
This isn't theory. It's history. The Bank of England operated an active monetary policy under a gold standard for two and a half centuries. And the U.S. Federal Reserve was founded under the gold standard in 1914.
Moreover, the history of the gold standard is not just happy centuries of price-level stability. It is also a long history of crises, devaluations, suspensions of convertibility, and defaults on sovereign debt.
Read Full Article