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Propaganda, Politics, and the Gold Standard

-- Posted Sunday, 26 August 2012 | | Disqus

My Two Cents

By Andy Sutton


It wouldn’t be a normal day in the life of the 24-hour news cycle if there weren’t some type of campaign against gold and its proper role as money. True to form, The Financial Times stepped to the plate to launch a rather hilarious attack on gold in the context of an article which discusses the idea that one half of our Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi political system is contemplating adding what is the equivalent of a feasibility study on returning to the gold standard to its political platform.


Chief among the ‘journalistic’ arguments against the gold standard in FT’s article are that there a) is no inflation, and that b) a return to monetary discipline will prevent the federal reserve from properly dealing with demand shocks. This is nothing more than typical Keynesian tripe and both arguments are dogs that won’t hunt when it comes to even a cursory analysis of the issues involved.


Central Banks and Inflation – Inextricably Linked


I am quite sure that the issue of inflation doesn’t need to be proven once again. It is a monetary event. A quick look at the various monetary aggregates over time demonstrates the inflation. The concomitant loss of the dollar’s purchasing power over the same period demonstrates inflation well beyond that necessary to accommodate a growing economy (hint: fractional reserve banking and America’s debt explosion). It is a pretty simple logic chain. Inflation is a monetary event. Central banks are in charge of the world’s monetary policy. Therefore, inflation is the responsibility of central banks and is NOT the by-product of a healthy economy, nor is inflation necessary to have a healthy economy.


The dirty truth is that monetary discipline vis a vis the gold standard eliminates the need for centralized control of the monetary system and goes against every principle of both the morally and intellectually bankrupt Keynesian doctrine and the whimsy of power-hungry central planners around the globe.


Politicians by general rule despise monetary discipline because it hinders their efforts to engage in their primary business – politics via pork barrel spending and other vote gathering spending programs. Some examples over the past decade would be Medicare Part D, and a raft of economic ‘stimulus’ programs from direct cash handouts in 2001 and 2010 to the more recent ‘shovel ready’ make-work type projects. Note should be taken that despite these heroic measures, the USEconomy is still flat-lined. Job creation is minimal at best, wage growth is nonexistent, and net worth of individuals has declined while debt levels have skyrocketed. These are hard facts, not opinion.


Central banks also disdain monetary discipline because such discipline is not only a threat to their existence, but it prevents banks from enslaving countries and citizens by using debt-driven fiat monetary systems. This is precisely the reason that the federal reserve worked hard to incrementally remove the US from the gold standard. The result has been an increased dependence on the central bank: both from the standpoint of management of the USEconomy and debt ownership. While the fed’s QE programs are lauded by the media and government as being the salvation of the USEconomy, these same folks are largely silent when it comes to pointing out the fact that with each QE, the bank owns more and more of our country and its economic output.


The Politics of Poverty


It is certainly true that both heads of America’s political hydra fully support the politics of poverty because both have had periods of control over enough of the political machinery in this country to strip the federal reserve of its power or scratch it out of existence with the stroke of a pen. Obviously that hasn’t happened. In normal media circles, this is referred to as gridlock. However, what if the normal circles have it totally backward – as is generally the case?


What if the bank drove the government and not vice versa? The dog and pony show that goes on every time a fed chair testifies before Congress is worthy of an Oscar. Refusal to answer questions, provide information, and generally obstructing the entire process are the order of the day whenever a fed chairman is in town. There have certainly been enough in the way of admissions, revelations, and the like over the past half dozen years in particular to convince even the most naïve that the federal reserve runs the government and not the other way around. Yet every election cycle, the people continue to be sold a bill of goods regarding what can be done if only x and y are elected. It is a sad shame that the vast majority of people still fall into this simpleminded trap. This time around, there is the added element of honey in the trap in the form of a possible return to the gold standard. And the stakes have never been higher.


We’ve heard everything in the way of excuses why people can’t connect the dots. We don’t understand economics. We have lives and don’t have the time to read and do research and all this sort of thing. We let the media think for us. We wander around in our daily existence unable to shake the notion that something is very wrong, yet we can’t be bothered to attempt to think for ourselves or to seek the truth? Then shame on us; we get what we deserve.


History Repeats?


As odd as it may seem we’ve heard this story before. On June 22, 1981, Treasury Secy. Donald Regan appointed the Reagan Gold Commission. This action came after a decade of monetary turmoil following the formal and complete disconnection from the USDollar to gold on August 15, 1971. Looking back it is should be obvious to all observers that the final severing of the link between fiat and specie touched off the debt spiral in which America is currently embroiled. One point of confusion among many members of both the general public and the gold community is that Nixon took America off the gold standard because we’d run dry. That isn’t the case. While it is true that America’s gold stock had been diminished by over two-thirds from 1949 levels, the Treasury had approximately 264 million troy ounces in the gold stock as of 1982.


The Commission’s report, issued on March 31, 1982, contained an analysis of America’s economic picture that was almost thoroughly sanitized of mention of a growing external debt problem and the issue of persistent Federal budget deficits. This sanitization drew the ire of Congressman Chalmers P. Wylie and the report is speckled with asterisked comments containing his protests of various aspects of the Commission’s work. While this piece is not meant to be an expose on the Commission’s report, there are some recurring themes even today, more than 30 years after the release of the report. To get a copy of the Commission’s report, click here.


There was a big push from within and without the Commission to assign legal tender status to US Mint issued gold coins, but NOT to require they be accepted as settlement of public and private debts like the federal reserve note. This might sound like a subtlety, but given the monopoly status of the fed and its paper notes, it is important to note that even 30 years ago, that monopoly was being defended after a time of high monetary inflation and economic malaise.


Just as today, where fears of missing gold permeate the monetary world, and where there have been many reported instances of tungsten-salted gold bars, the Commission mentioned as its #2 item the situation regarding the actual gold stock of the Treasury. The Treasury maintained that it had performed an audit over the prior ten years with annual settlements of account according to 31 U.S.C 354. Congressman Ron Paul, who served on the Commission, was the only dissenter, stating that 31 U.S.C 354 mandated an annual rather than an ongoing audit. The Treasury said they were within the law and the Commission took the Treasury at its word. Some things never change.


Another important commonality between the Commission’s report and the economic forum of today centers around what exactly money is and how the supply thereof affects prices (or doesn’t affect them at all). We’ve learned absolutely nothing in 30 years. We put our best and brightest to work and 30 years ago they couldn’t figure out that if you increase the supply of money chasing a finite basket of goods that the prices paid for those goods will increase. The traditional gold standard was criticized by many on the Commission for not providing for economic growth, which is patently false. A traditional gold standard provides that only a certain amount of paper currency be issued for every unit of gold held in unencumbered reserve. A healthy economy will produce trade surpluses, which will result in additional gold being added to the reserve and thus allowing for the creation of further paper currency to accommodate such growth. The persistent running of trade deficits such as the US has developed a pattern of doing, however, will result in a contraction of the gold reserve, and therefore a concomitant contraction of the paper currency in the system.


The production of more goods results in more money being made available with which to purchase those goods. The result of fewer goods being produced results in less money being available to purchase the goods. This creates an environment of self-limiting price stability. Granted, in this regard, the gold standard is dependent on external trade and this is where the problem lies. The destruction of the US manufacturing base was already in the works by the time the Commission was tasked. A gold standard simply couldn’t be tolerated at that point since the quantity of exportable goods was going to be diminishing over the next several decades. Add to that the growing role of debt in driving the USEconomy and there was no way a gold standard could be tolerated otherwise both federal reserve and USGovt policy would have been exposed as the complete fraud that it was and remains.


A quick take-home from the above historical summary is that even an acute crisis in the 1970s wasn’t enough to drive America back to at least some form of monetary discipline. Given the fact that our thinking has yet to be elevated at both the public and private level, it is likely a fantasy to assume that such a drastic action would have any success in gaining support today. This is especially true given that the dollar standard era still has yet to come to a close. Once that happens, look for gold to be used by politicians and bankers as a way to encourage public trust in yet another paper currency.


The European Dynamic – Sovereignty DOES Matter


What is probably the most remarkable thing this time around is that we already have a near perfect example of our own fate being played out just across the Atlantic. Sure, we’re not a union of nation-states under the control of a single central bank; we're simply a union of states under the control of a bank. And much in the same way Europe is fracturing, so is America. Whereas various European countries are looking at ways to regain their monetary sovereignty, states like Utah have already passed legislation to help its citizenry regain some of its lost sovereignty as well. Utah isn’t alone in its desire to circumvent the fed and its monetary monopoly.


When you borrow money to purchase something, you give up a piece of your sovereignty. It is an exchange. A piece of your economic freedom for whatever you purchase with the borrowed money. You get to join the club of people who are susceptible to loss of sleep and other dislocations in their lives if they fail to make the payments. But it is an eyes-open transaction. Everyone understands what comes with the territory, but few ever think of it in its most basic terms.


Similarly, when the Eurozone nations joined the union, they had to leave their monetary liberty, if you will, at the door. They became beholden to the whims of a centrally planned monetary system. And we’ve seen how that has played out so far. Debt is used to both contain and control the members. Bailouts created from nothing by the central bank or coerced from other nation-states are used to cause member nations to embrace various types of reform. The fact that reforms were necessary is obvious.


At the end of the day it all comes down to liberty. Whenever liberty is legislated out of existence it creates a vacuum. When sovereignty is ceded, the ability to control one’s own economic destiny is sacrificed and it happens in more instances than most people might care to think about. It might be easier to just turn over control of something like the money supply to an outside institution, but then you get to deal with the consequences – both good and bad – of that decision.


And if things don’t work out, you get a situation like Europe or here in the US where the federal reserve holds the economy hostage; the carrot just in front of the nose of the hungry rabbit, the monetary fix for the debt addicted nation just out of reach. Maybe at the next FOMC meeting we’ll get QEx. Maybe they’ll announce it after Jackson Hole. Maybe they won’t. If there is no inflation and everything is just grand, then why not print another trillion right now and hand it out? In all seriousness, these are exactly the type of questions people need to be asking right now regardless of how unpleasant the compilation of possible answers might be.


Andrew W. Sutton, MBA

Chief Market Strategist

Sutton & Associates, LLC


Sutton & Associates, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This message, and its contents is intended solely for the entity named herein. If you have received this message in error, please reply to the message's originator then delete the message from your system.


Interested in what is going on in the markets and the economy? Read Andy Sutton's weekly market and economic commentary 'My Two Cents' - go to

-- Posted Sunday, 26 August 2012 | Digg This Article | Source:

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