from Casey’s Daily Despatch
Posted originally Aug 25, 2010
As the fiat money monsters are brought to bay, the price of gold can really only go higher. Overly confident? I don’t think so.
THAT’S BECAUSE WHEN PEOPLE LOSE FAITH IN A CURRENCY, AS THEY WILL BEFORE THIS CRISIS is over, they unfailingly rush to exchange the unbacked paper money for something more tangible. While pretty much anything with an intrinsic value will do – real estate, antique cars, old masters – for all the reasons that Aristotle enunciated, gold is viewed in a class of its own, and so has an unblemished history as a universally accepted store of value. And, thanks to its portability, divisibility, durability, and consistency, it has also always been looked upon as a convenient form of money.
The most pressing macro-observation I’d like to make – an observation that’s critical for investors to understand (though most don’t or won’t) – is that the tectonic monetary shift now underway is truly global in nature. And it’s not going to be over until a new and markedly different monetary regime has been implemented.
It’s like this: Throughout history governments have experimented with fiat money. They have done so because the benefits to the government and the insiders that invariably latch on to power are just so damn attractive. The Romans did it by debasing their coinage, but the modern version goes one better by completely disconnecting a currency from any value whatsoever, and then wantonly printing as politically motivated needs or wants arise.
The latest fiat system kicked off in earnest in 1944 when Uncle Scam, in Bretton Woods, NH, got the leaders of the world’s war-weary countries to agree to accept the U.S. dollar as their reserve currency. In return, the U.S. agreed that the currency notes it would subsequently issue would be convertible into a corresponding amount of gold. Then Tricky Nixon came along in 1971 and canceled the right of the bearer to swap the notes for gold. Overnight, the link between the currency and anything tangible was lost.
That, of course, opened the door to all subsequent politicians to engage in the whole print, print, print thing. The keystone asset of the former system – gold – soon became a distant memory for the new crop of central bankers and, remarkably, to the bearers of the notes.
For any number of reasons, most of which related to the illusion of increasing prosperity, people simply stopped paying attention to what Uncle Scam was up to. Of course, that illusion was largely based on the increase in nominal wealth: if one year you’re worth $100,000 and three years later you are worth $150,000, the tendency is to feel richer even if your actual purchasing power has gone up by far less or even has declined due to a debasement of the currency.
Today’s dollar is worth just 18 cents in 1971 terms. But all scams must, in time, come to an end. And that’s what’s going on now. It ends here. Before this is over, the current iteration of the U.S. dollar – the vaporous construct with no actual value – will lose its value as money.
Which brings me to an important nuance in this discussion. Most failed fiat money experiments involve a single currency. The most convenient recent example is provided by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Rather than actually supporting the creation of marketable goods and services in what he sees as his private fiefdom, he took the low road of energetically abusing his fiat currency to the vanishing point.
In a situation such as that, the local citizenry suffers – as well as anyone foolish enough to be holding bonds denominated in the debased currency. But that’s about it. In the current scenario, the keystone of the entire global monetary system is the U.S. dollar. Which means that the primary reserve holdings of virtually all the world’s significant central banks are at risk of going up in smoke.
And it’s even worse that, because the dollar is also the number one trade currency – which means corporations around the world are sitting on huge holdings or are dependent on commercial contracts denominated in dollars. And even that’s not the end of it. Because Uncle Scam has long served as a role model to other world leaders, those leaders have enthusiastically followed suit and universally launched fiat monetary systems of their own. It’s bad enough that the world’s reserve currency is a fiction – but the situation becomes really dire when you accept as fact that all the world’s currencies are a fiction.