This archived content originally appeared at, the predecessor site to, and does not carry the sponsorship of the Cato Institute.

Let’s have the debate on gold

Steve Horwitz has a post at Coordination Problem. Since he has not brought attention to it here, I will do it for him.

I detect in the article to which Steve was replying, and in other recent articles by liberals and conservatives alike, an unhealthy attempt to foreclose debate about the gold standard. So you think it would be a bad idea. After the experience of the last several years, not just in one or two countries, but in quite a few of the richest countries, are you really so sure that fiat money is superior to the gold standard? As I pointed out in my previous post, Britain is now in a slump longer than it suffered during the Great Depression. If circumstances like these aren’t enough to make you reconsider the potential desirability of the gold standard, are there any circumstances that would? If the answer is “no,” we can conclude that you are mere dogmatists.

Among those wishing to foreclose debate I see many clever scribblers, but nobody who shows evidence of having studied in detail the history and workings of the gold standard, as it existed both inside and outside the United States. If you adopt this attitude and you have not read at least a dozen scholarly books on the gold standard,* you can’t even begin to claim expertise on the subject and your opinions are no more worthy of notice than your opinions on aeronautical engineering.

*Some of them, not all equally correct but worth reading: William Adams Brown, Jr., The International Gold Standard Reinterpreted; Barry Eichengreen, Golden Fetters; Eichengreen, editor, The Gold Standard in Theory and History; Ralph Hawtrey, The Gold Standard in Theory and Practice; Lawrence Officer, Between the Sterling-Dollar Gold Points; Melchior Palyi, The Twilight of Gold; the U.S. Gold Commission Report; Leland Yeager, selected chapters of International Monetary Relations. As far as I remember, all of these focus on central banking; I know of no book that gives other monetary authorities their due.