Are Gold and Silver Money?
Paul Craig Roberts
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke answers no.
And so do America’s youth. Awhile back I posted videos of a podcaster who would offer Americans a one-ounce gold coin worth approximately $1,800 for one piece of chewing gum, only to be refused. The youth, who pay with credit cards, not with cash, think money is digital. Consequently a bitcoin is worth many times the value of a gold coin despite the fact that a bitcoin’s value is nebulous and can decline thousands of dollars in a day.
And, apparently, gold and silver are not money for people worried about inflation that is allegedly so serious that the Federal Reserve is engineering a recession and pension fund and Big Bank wipeout to stop.
With inflation high and financial investments paying so little, why haven’t people sought to protect their purchasing power by going into gold and silver? Gold and silver prices have fallen while inflation has risen. This is nonsensical.
Part of the answer is that the US dollar is high despite high inflation. This normally nonsensical relationship is because the UK pound, euro, and yen are adversely impacted by economy shutdowns due to Covid lockdowns and energy shortages created by Washington’s Russian sanctions, and these countries are experiencing their own inflations from the sanctions and from the Covid lockdowns that reduced supply and cut them off from global deliveries. Supply reductions can result in higher prices just as effectively as excessive consumer demandl
Another part of the answer is that the supply of gold and silver in the futures market where price is determined can be increased by printing uncovered contracts and, thereby can be increased in supply like fiat paper money. As I explained many times on this website, often in collaboration with Dave Kranzler, the prices of gold and silver are set in futures markets, not in the physical market where gold and silver are purchased. The futures market in gold and silver permits “naked shorts.” This means that unlike the stock market, where the person shorting the market has to have the actual stock to sell, which is usually borrowed, gold and silver can be sold short without the seller owning any gold or silver.
What this means is that gold and silver that trade in future markets can be created by printing contracts that are not covered by gold and silver. In other words, today gold and silver can be increased in supply by printing contracts in the futures market where price is determined just as fiat paper money can be printed.
The printing of contracts and then dumping them into the futures market suddenly increases the supply of paper gold. A sudden increase in shorts in the futures market drives down the gold price. The Federal Reserve and the Big Banks have used naked shorting to prevent rising gold and silver prices that would show the true depreciation in the dollar’s value.
The futures market clears in cash. The holders of contracts do not demand payment in gold, that is, they do not take delivery. They settle in cash. If those holding delivery contracts actually demanded delivery, it is unlikely the Comex would have the gold to deliver. Comex would simply refuse delivery and settle the contract in cash at a price determined by the manipulation of gold’s and silver’s values by naked shorting.
Gold investors believe that eventually this way of holding down the price of gold and silver will be overwhelmed by flight from excessively printed paper currencies.
There is reason to believe that they are correct. Unless the Federal Reserve has become involved with the World Economic Forum’s plan to force with crises a worldwide “Great Reset” in which we all become serfs owning nothing, in which case a different agenda is being served, the Federal Reserve’s current policy will cause problems for Big Banks, such as Credit Suisse’s current problems, pension funds, insurers, and for stock and bond prices and the many speculative deals based on former interest rates, and part of the resulting flight from financial assets will find its way into gold and silver
Gold and silver were the original money, because they are rare and can serve as a store of value as well as a means of exchange. A gold and silver money supply can nevertheless be inflated. Gold coins can be shaved–thus the ridges placed on the edges of the coins to reveal the diminution of the gold content. And the coins can be debased by the addition of non-precious metals, as was the silver denarius with which the Roman army was paid. I have a “silver denarius” that is 90% lead.
As economist Milton Friedman demonstrated, even when operating under a gold system, a central bank can essentially cancel it by interventions that offset the currency effects of the import and export of gold to bring the balance of payments into balance.
Nevertheless, gold and silver coins that are not debased hold their real value in inflation times, that is they rise in value with inflation while fiat money declines in value unless the central bank suppresses the rise in precious metals prices with naked shorts.
The conclusion is that only gold and silver are real money.
Paper money came in as a stand-in for real money as gold and silver are heavy and their presence in significant amounts is obvious and requires the expense of protection. In previous times, gold and silver were deposited in vaults, and the depositor was provided a receipt, which traded as the first paper money.
In later periods when paper currency, such as Bank of England notes, entered circulation, they were backed by and convertible into gold. The same was true in the US until the Franklin D. Roosevelt era in the 1930s when Roosevelt confiscated gold from Americans and then raised its price.
US Senator Jesse Helms returned to Americans the right to own gold four decades later in the 1970s.
In the 1930s President Roosevelt called in the gold and then raised the official price from $20 an ounce to $35, where it stood until the official price became $42.22. In the 1970s Senator Helms got a law passed permitting Americans to again own gold in the form of coins and bars and not merely jewelry. In the 1980s the price of gold rose to $800 per ounce despite the large rise in the value of the US dollar due to the success of President Reagan’s supply-side economic policy. Wall St had, of course, incorrectly predicted high inflation and dollar collapse from Reagan’s policy, and some investors acted on the basis of this incorrect prediction.
In 2022 the price of gold per ounce peaked at $2,043.30 and currently stands at $1,655. Over my lifetime the price of one ounce of gold at today’s price, has risen by 47 times– from $35 to $1,650.
The question is what has inflation done to the paper dollar? Is the dollar worth 47 times less than in my youth? How much has gold outperformed the paper dollar despite Washington’s methods of suppressing the values of gold and silver?
I haven’t enough confidence in the inflation data to compute this, but would be pleased to publish anyone’s computation that is adequately explained.
What Americans born and raised after my generation do not understand is that at World War II’s close, the United States stood at the top of the world. America emerged as the only industrial economy intact and expanded in productive power after the disastrous war. All other industrial economies were in ruins, and the plans were to convert Germany to a permanent non-industrial agricultural economy. This plan was abandoned only because of the rise of the “Soviet threat.”
As MIT Professor Paul Samuelson, the doyen of American economics in the second half of the 20th century, emphasized, the United States was a self-sufficient economy. Its work force was employed producing products for domestic use and therefore Americans produced the goods and services that they consumed. This meant strong tax bases for numerous cities and states that were later ruined by the offshoring of American manufacturing forced by Wall Street in pursuit of lower labor costs and higher profits, a pursuit that cost America her ladders for upper mobility into the middle class and much of the middle class itself. Foreign trade or “Globalism” was an insignificant and unneeded component of American GDP. US debt, despite the accumulated war debt, was insignificant and of no consequent to the US economy as we owed it all to ourselves.
America’s prosperity was destroyed by the Soviet Collapse in 1991. The reason is that the Soviet Collapse convinced China and India, with their massive underemployed work forces, that capitalism, not socialism, was the future, and they opened their economies to foreign capital.
Wall St forced American corporations under threat of takeovers to move their manufacturing abroad. This occurred and collapsed the growth of US consumer income and the tax bases of former manufacturing cities and states, many of which, like Detroit, became highly publicized ruins (see, for example, Paul Craig Roberts, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism).
It was not competition from abroad, from China, India, Russia, that stopped the growth of American real incomes. It was the short-sighted, self-serving policies imposed by narrow economic interests, such as Wall St, that knocked America off its perch.
Today the American economy is a marketer of goods made by American firms abroad with foreign labor. Americans do not receive the income from the manufacture of the goods that they consume. Billionaires, such as Sir James Goldsmith and Roger Milliken, and a few economists, such as myself, made this completely clear for years to no effect. In America Greed, not facts, rules.
Greed prevailed over the public interest and what was good for America.
Now we have a country that cannot even produce its latest jet fighters without Chinese parts and whose consumer goods have Chinese labor costs and not American.
A country that has destroyed itself in this way is so poorly led that a revolution is long overdue.
Trump tried to show us what was happening to us, but so far Americans have proven too stupid to save themselves.
The incompetence of America is perhaps the reason Putin does not concern himself with the American interference in his Ukrainian operation.
As Putin faces a totally incompetent West, Putin, despite his own shortcomings, will prevail. And so will China.