The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's Econ Focus interviewed Richard Timberlake earlier this year and somehow I missed it, (Here is George Selgin's post on Dick's book Constitutional Money and here is my appreciation of Dick on his 90th birthday, two years ago.) The first question and part of Dick's answer to it follow.
EF: Let’s start with a unifying theme of your work: Your support of a gold standard. Several great neoclassical monetary theorists — Marshall, Walras, Wicksell, Fisher, and Keynes — argued that a rules-based fiat money could outperform a gold standard. Why do you disagree?
Timberlake: Let me say first of all that I am not a “gold bug.” Nonetheless, the fact is that an operational gold standard works to promote a free society, and no other monetary policy seems able to do so.
The key word in your question is “could.” But the policymakers won’t allow it to. The reason they won’t is found in public choice economics, which argues that the policymakers, like all other human beings, have a stronger motive to further their own self-interest than to promote sound public policy — not only at the Fed, but everywhere.
And now for something much different. If, like me, you are interested in free banking as a subset of the wider phenomenon of voluntary exchange, you may derive some instruction from these anthropological works:
Keith Hart (London School of Economics and University of Pretoria) and Horacio Ortiz (Centre de sociologie de l’innovation, Paris), The anthropology of money and finance: from ethnography to world history (essay).
Charles J. Opitz, An Ethnographic Study of Traditional Money (a book that catalogs hundreds of different forms that money has taken; the result of the author's years of work collecting many of them).