Cobden Centre readers may find it heartening that Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is now showing an interest in hard money:
On one side of the Atlantic, the eurozone debt crisis has spread to the countries that may be too big to save – Spain and Italy – though RBS thinks a €3.5 trillion rescue fund would ensure survival of Europe’s currency union.
On the other side, the recovery has sputtered out and the printing presses are being oiled again. Brinkmanship between the Congress and the White House over the US debt ceiling has compelled Moody’s to warn of a “very small but rising risk” that the world’s paramount power may default within two weeks. “The unthinkable is now thinkable,” said Ross Norman, director of thebulliondesk.com.
Step by step, the world is edging towards a revived Gold Standard as it becomes clearer that Japan and the West have reached debt saturation. World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said it was time to “consider employing gold as an international reference point.” The Swiss parliament is to hold hearings on a parallel “Gold Franc”. Utah has recognised gold as legal tender for tax payments.
The bad news?
A new Gold Standard would probably be based on a variant of the ‘Bancor’ proposed by Keynes in the late 1940s. This was a basket of 30 commodities intended to be less deflationary than pure gold, which had compounded in the Great Depression. The idea was revived by China’s central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan two years ago as a way of curbing the “credit-based” excess.
But, amusingly, Ambrose closes with a quote from our favourite Fed chairman:
Mr Bernanke himself was grilled by Congress this week on the role of gold. Why do people by gold? “As protection against of what we call tail risks: really, really bad outcomes,” he replied.