Monday, May 28, 2007

How to Re-Monetize Gold

Lenny Rann responds to my earlier blog as follows:

Rann writes:
>"We have exceeded the ability to regulate our currency along the gold standard, we have produced too much to cover with such a scarce resource. Much that we produce are not commodities that exist in the natural world, i.e. the richest man in the world made it on intellectual property. Today, copper and steel seem to define the relationship between liquidity and commodity prices (inflation?) Please see the five year chart for the following copper producer (PCU) and steel manufacturer (SID) Whether we are in a metal commodity bubble, I don't know. Almost all of my holdings are in metals and mining, but I am reducing my positions and moving back to petroleum."

It doesn't matter what resource is used as a standard. But the problem isn't that gold fluctuates too much; that there is too much productivity; or that the economy is too complicated for the dollar to be backed by gold. The problem is that we have increased productivity too little to merit the increases in the number of dollars.

You could use platinum, iron or silver, as a monetary standard, but historically gold has been used and people feel comfortable with it. You could use other things as well, say oil, it's arbitrary in the sense that people expect coins to be shiny. The government still makes them shiny because people feel comfortable with shiny coins. Coins could be orange, but people would be uncomfortable.

Gold is a good choice because people feel comfortable with it.The issue is whether to have a standard or not. It doesn't matter if commodities fluctuate in price. They don't fluctuate in only one direction, so over the long run there is more stability with a commodity standard than without one. The arguments against a standard are just an excuse because some people want inflation. The people who favor inflation are: commercial bankers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate executives, left wing academics, Keynesian economists, the American Enterprise Institute and debtors. The people who shouldn't want inflation are wage earners and savers.

There are many people who both benefit and lose from inflation. People who are bad stock market investors lose, because inflation causes unpredictable shifts in the stock market which make many people do irrational things like withdrawing their money when the market bottoms. Also, people are often both real estate owners who hold a fixed-rate mortgage and also are wage earners. Inflation will help them via the fixed rate mortgage but it will hurt them because it reduces the real value of their wages.

The last three decades have seen flat wages (which began in the 1970s, right after the gold standard was abolished) coupled with widespread home ownership. So the effects of inflation are complicated. The poor who can't borrow are hurt the most. The very wealthy are helped the most. Risk-averse savers are hurt. Risk-taking investors with good market timing and people who take large mortgages at fixed rates relative to their incomes are helped. Wage earners are hurt. Stock holders are helped.

The chief thing that changes when you don't have a gold or other standard is that the central bank has the flexibility to increase the money supply faster than the rate of increase in productivity. M3, the now-discontinued measure of global supply of US dollars, has been increasing at 8% per year, three times the rate of US productivity increases. If the Fed could match increases in the money supply to productivity increases in the US economy it would be ideal. But they cannot because of political pressure from the financial community, the business community and Keynesian and left-wing academics. Also, the Fed makes many mistakes.

The effects of money supply increases are felt in the long run and can potentially become catastrophic for the United States and its citizens.The shift from the gold standard to pure paper money was completed in 1972, under President Nixon, and workers' real wages started stagnating almost immediately thereafter.

According to David Wozney, a poster on Howard Katz's Gold Bug blog , "A 'Federal Reserve Note' is not a U.S.A. dollar. In 1973, Public Law 93-110 defined the U.S.A. dollar as consisting of 1/42.2222 fine troy ounces of gold."

I read on the web that there are 368,250 bars of gold in Ft. Knox, with each bar weighing 400 oz. 400 x 368,250 x $750 (approximate price) = $110.5 billion. The government stopped publishing M3, which included foreign deposits, but it is likely in the area of $11.3 trillion. That means that while the government has defined a dollar to be 1/42.2 oz. of gold, according to one observer it has gone ahead and printed 185,000 dollars for every ounce of gold that exists anywhere in the world.

Eventually, dollar holders may realize that the dollar has no validity. It has not been backed up "by the US economy"; it has not been backed up by the good faith of the US government (which has been increasing global money supply at 8 percent per year while US productivity has been increasing at 2.5 percent per year); and it has not been backed up by gold.

I would assume that to re monetize gold you need to redefine the dollar as 1/750th oz. of gold, or the current market value, and use the amount in Ft. Knox as fractional reserves.

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