Gold – A Barbarous Relic?
By Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research
How many times have you heard gold described as the "barbarous relic"? It is a favorite phrase of gold-bashers everywhere who are trying to make gold the object of derision. I cringe every time I hear it, which is all too frequently, because gold is neither barbarous nor a relic.
There is indeed a barbarous relic: central banking. Central banks are barbarous, in part, because they conspired to put an end to Sir Isaac Newton's brilliant invention – the gold standard – that safeguarded sound money for 200 years. However, it is the process of central banking itself, as it has come to be practiced, that deserves the greatest public wrath.
Central banking is barbarous for the following reasons:
Corruption of Money as a Product of the Free Market
Money is a fundamental building block of our society because it allows people to interact with one another in the market process. Money existed long before governments and central banks began to "manage" it. Tragically, instead of being a neutral and unfettered tool in commerce, fair to one and all, money has now become a matter of force and decree, which is disruptive to the market process and therefore harmful to society.
Creation of Money Substitutes
Prior to the creation of the Bank of England, every exchange in the trading activity that we call "the market process" tendered value for value. In other words, gold was exchanged for land, silver for food, etc. – assets were traded for assets. The Bank of England changed this process by creating money substitutes. Banknotes are not a tangible asset, like gold or silver. Banknotes are merely money substitutes and not money itself. Money substitutes are a liability of the bank issuing that paper currency that create all sorts of payment risks that one does not have when using tangible assets as currency.
Because central banks act in secrecy, they are not held accountable. For example, the so-called Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve is far from open. It meets and makes decisions behind closed doors. The minutes released one month later are thoroughly redacted, leaving outsiders in the dark about the members' deliberations. Central bankers consider themselves – and act as if they are – above the law. Moreover, this secrecy favors insiders, and it is this fundamental principle upon which central banks' market intervention has been constructed, including, for example, their intervention in the gold market.
Taxation without Representation
Central banks have freed governments from having to ask their citizens – through their elected representatives – for more taxes. Central banks can acquire government debt and use it to create currency out of thin air for governments to spend on their latest whims. Even worse, through their policies that create inflation, central banks enable governments to steal from their citizens.
There are several tools in the central banks' arsenal, and one of them is disinformation, which they regularly practice. For example, central banks have come to make people believe that inflation is "rising prices." But wet streets do not cause rain. By changing the definition of inflation to one of "rising prices" rather than what it really is – monetary debasement engineered by central banks – the true culprits (the central banks themselves) are masked.
Not only are central banks guilty of disinformation, but deception is also one of their most frequently used tools. The history of banking is replete with examples that demonstrate not just a lack of disclosure but, rather, outright deception. To give just one example, consider how central banks today account for their gold loans. They carry both gold in the vault and gold out on loan as one line item on their balance sheets. In effect, central banks are saying that they can ignore the truthful disclosure established by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. As a result, they can report both cash and accounts receivable as one and the same thing. Accounting like that would make even the fraudsters at Enron blush.
Creation of Command and Control Economies
Central banks have, in effect, turned the market into a command (i.e., state-run) economy. The power to create money out of thin air brings with it the much greater power to control a nation's economy, and therefore the economic destiny of millions. Central bankers today act like the former Soviet Union politburo members, who pulled strings and pushed buttons to try to make the economy – which means each and every one of us who participate in the economy – bend to their control. But it is not only the economic destiny of millions that is determined by central banks. The exercise of power by central banks raises subtle, but potentially more disturbing, issues.
Propagation of Control and Restrictions
Central bankers and their comrades in government know that the command-economy power that they have claimed forces them to walk a fine line between prosperity and economic collapse, given the inherent fragility of the credit-based monetary system they operate. To try to reduce this ever-growing fragility – in a vain attempt to make it easier for central banks to control the command economy effectively and totally – governments take away peoples' freedom. Central banks usher in controls, like the reporting of bank accounts and funds transfers, and policies, such as the "too big to fail" doctrine that underwrites bad decisions at banks with taxpayers' money. Controls perpetuate a central bank's stranglehold on power regardless of whether they are doing a good or a bad job – and it is usually bad – in commanding the economy.
Debt Over Savings
The command economy that central banks operate encourages the growth of debt, rather than savings. Banks want to expand their balance sheets – i.e., to make more loans – in order to earn greater profits. Governments want central banks to accommodate this objective. The resulting credit expansion provides the public with opportunities to acquire new things, which creates an illusion of prosperity that makes people believe their wealth is rising.
The result of this debt-induced pseudo-prosperity is a complacent populace, which tends to perpetuate governmental power and politicians' perquisites. Instead of following a sound and time-tested "pay as you go" policy, consumers, businesses, and governments have adopted a new creed – "buy now and pay later." The mountain of debt that exists in the United States today, and the excessive consumption that continues to enlarge that mountain, are the direct results of central banks' activity and their need to grow more debt to avoid the inevitable bust that would follow if the debt growth were to stop. Newsletter writer Richard Russell explains it very simply in just three words: "Inflate or die." That reality explains why former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said, in effect, that he would drop $100 bills from helicopters if necessary to inflate the economy.
Not far in the future, when the U.S. dollar collapses as just one in a long list of fiat currencies that have collapsed before it, people will look back and ask themselves how it was possible that barbarous institutions like central banks could have hoodwinked so many people into thinking they were good institutions acting in the public interest. The answer is that central banks have created the illusion of prosperity. Because people think that they are well off, they have no reason to question basic tenets that they are led to believe. For this reason, people are easily cozened into believing that gold is the barbarous relic, that central banks are doing a good job, that officially measured inflation is low, and that their financial future is secure. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.