More Awkward Questions For Advocates Of The Gold Standard

David Glasner has been reading a newly acquired copy of Ralph Hawtrey’s Trade Depression and the Way Out, 1933 edition, which inspires some tough questions for the hard money folks.

“The key point which bears repeating again and again is that under a gold standard, there is no assurance that the value of money will be stable in the absence of action taken by the monetary authorities to maintain its value,” Glasner writes.

If a gold standard were to be restored, I have no idea how the demand for gold would be affected. The value of gold (in the short to intermediate run and perhaps even the long run) depends, more than anything, on the demand for gold. Gold is now a speculative asset; people hold gold now because they for some reason (unfathomable to me) believe that it will appreciate over time. If the value of gold were fixed in nominal terms by way of a gold standard, would people continue to demand gold in anticipation that its price would rise? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. And what do supporters of the gold standard believe that governments and monetary authorities, which now hold about almost 20% of existing gold stocks, believe ought to be done with those reserves? Do they think that governments and public agencies ought to continue to hold gold simply to stabilize the value of gold? Is that how the free market is supposed to determine the value of money?