Nobody has found some measure of “stable value” that is superior to gold.
It is best to refer to a gold standard as a "currency board linked to gold." This accomplishes quite a few things. It helps people throw out their old misconceptions and look at things from a new perspective. It describes, in five words, how a gold standard actually operates. It also serves as a sort of litmus test.
The fact of the matter is that the gold standard systems of the last 300 years have operated in a way that resembles a modern currency board. Of course, it was not exactly the same, but it was functionally similar. A new Toyota Camry isn't the same as a Ford Model T-there is not one element that is exactly the same and yet, they operate on identical principles.
A currency board links a paper currency to another paper currency, through an automatic adjustment mechanism. There is no "discretionary monetary policy," a committee of supposed wise men to make weighty decisions. The currency board's target is currency value. It is not the "money supply" or CPI or interest rates or some such thing. In other words, the currency board causes a currency to have a stable exchange rate with another currency.
The currency board's target can be another currency, but it can also be a currency basket. Singapore uses a currency-basket targeting system. Some people today think that the IMF's "Special Drawing Rights," another currency basket, should be adopted as a currency target.
In the same fashion, a currency board could target gold. The currency would have a stable exchange rate with gold, by way of an automatic adjustment mechanism. This is of course a gold standard. The meaning of "gold standard" is that gold is used as the "standard," or, in other words, as the target of a currency board-like mechanism. Maybe we should call it a "gold target system."
Although the term "currency board" is somewhat contemporary, the Bank of England used this mechanism to manage its gold standard system in the 18th century. In the U.S. it was used by private banks to manage their gold-linked banknotes during the 19th century.
It was supposed to be used by the U.S. to manage the dollar gold standard in the 20th century, but instead, the principle of an automatic, non-discretionary system was abandoned in favor of Keynesian interest-rate twiddling. This inherent conflict led to the abandonment of the gold standard system in 1971.
Currency boards are very reliable. Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a currency board expert, says that a properly managed currency board has never failed in practice. In late 2008, for example, numerous Eastern European currencies with loose, informal "pegs" to the euro suffered terrible turmoil, as their exchange rates varied wildly. However, there were six currency boards that used the euro as a target. None of them failed.
Some people like to claim that a gold standard is impossible today for one reason or another. People believe this because they don't know any better. But a currency board is obviously possible, and in successful use by many governments worldwide. All you have to do is change the target. There is no cost or effort involved. It takes no time. It is just that: a decision.
The phrase "currency board linked to gold" drives some hard-money advocates batty. They also advocate a "gold standard," or what they call a "gold standard," but are violently opposed to a "currency board linked to gold." Of course, this is silly because they are two terms for the same thing. We thus find out, rather quickly, who understands that these are two terms for the same thing, and who does not.
And up to date, nobody has found some measure of “stable value” that is superior to gold.
Nathan Lewis is the author of Gold: the Once and Future Money (2007). His website is newworldeconomics.com.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate data and information in the preparation of this article, neither europabullion.com nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after the publication. The information referenced is believed to be reliable, accurate, and appropriate, but is not guaranteed in any way. The strategies and forecasts herein are the author’s sole opinion and could prove to be inaccurate. No company, individual, or entity compensated the author or europabullion.com for mention in this article.
The article contains specific names of companies, strategies, different currencies, shares, government bonds, types, and sizes of precious metals, none of which can be deemed recommendations to the readers. Reading this article does not constitute a fiduciary relationship. Data, company-specific or otherwise, will not be updated on an ongoing basis. After the publication of the resources, the author and europabullion.com will not be responsible for future developments.
A registered financial advisor is always the best source of guidance in making financial decisions. The author is not a registered financial advisor and does not address the individual financial condition of the reader.