Is the Gold Standard a Better Guardian of Price Stability than Fiat Money?

Some want the United States to return to the gold standard out of concern that the Fed’s ability to “print money” might — will — lead to unstable prices. Anchoring the currency to a commodity like gold, their thinking goes, would keep prices in check. Of course, economists reject this reasoning. Here’s an interesting anecdote supporting the view of mainstream economists, from the St. Louis Fed:

Unfortunately, a gold standard is not a guarantee of price stability. It is simply a promise made “out of thin air” to keep the supply of money anchored to the supply of gold. To consider how tenuous such a promise can be, consider the following example. On April 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all gold coins and certificates of denominations in excess of $100 turned in for other money by May 1 at a set price of $20.67 per ounce. Two months later, a joint resolution of Congress abrogated the gold clauses in many public and private obligations that required the debtor to repay the creditor in gold dollars of the same weight and fineness as those borrowed. In 1934, the government price of gold was increased to $35 per ounce, effectively increasing the dollar value of gold on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet by almost 70 percent. This action allowed the Federal Reserve to increase the money supply by a corresponding amount and, subsequently, led to significant price inflation.

You can read the rest here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

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