Antony C. Sutton’s “The War On Gold” Revisited

By Thorsten Polleit

I.

Antony C. Sutton (1925-2002) was a British economist and economic historian who taught in the US, at California State University. Sutton was also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

His work focused primarily on financial and commercial cooperation between major US banks and corporates (call it “Wall Street interests”) and foreign states that were openly hostile to America.

In his book “Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution” (1974), Sutton used extensive data and documents to point out that, for instance, Wall Street interest groups financed and promoted Bolshevik Russia.

In his book “Wall Street and FDR: The True Story of How Franklin D. Roosevelt Colluded with Corporate America” (1975), Sutton paints a highly critical picture of the 32nd US president. Sutton shows that Roosevelt pursued policies that effectively amounted to “corporate socialism,” which, in turn, sought to manipulate and exploit the US economy for the benefit of a small elite to the detriment of many.

In “Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler” (1976) – the third instalment in his Wall Street Trilogy – Sutton details that Wall Street provided significant financial support to Adolf Hitler’s rising National Socialism in Germany – the enemy that American soldiers later faced with immense sacrifices, supported by elements within the US financial sphere.

Sutton’s most important work is arguably “America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones” (1983). In it, Sutton identifies influential American families and individuals shaping US foreign and economic policies for personal gain through the deliberate instigation of conflicts going back to the early 19th century. This movement’s major “incubator” is the secret society “Skulls & Bones” at Yale University.

Sutton thus challenges the prevailing narrative suggesting inherent hostility between US capitalists and socialist-communists. Contrary to conventional belief, Sutton posits that American capitalists (Wall Street, Big Business) saw attractive business opportunities in financial and trade relations with socialist-communist countries, exploiting them to their advantage. Sutton contends that powerful interest groups strategically manipulate US foreign policy, actively steering global events by deliberately fomenting conflicts.

It would be hasty to dismiss Sutton as a mere conspiracy theorist. His body of work is too differentiated, too meticulously researched, and, above all, too politically incorrect. 

In view of his prominent works, Sutton can be characterised as a revisionist economic historian who courageously pursued his own paths of research and interpretation. 

If you seek an initial impression of Antony Sutton’s work, I recommend the interview titled “The Capitalist Communist Conspiracy” (parts 1 and 2) from July 1, 1987, which journalist Elizabeth Clare Prophet conducted with him. Both videos can be found on YouTube.

II.

In 1977, Sutton published “The War On Gold,” and I would like to talk about this important book in some detail.

In my opinion, Sutton’s exploration of gold or gold money is of compelling and enduring interest because, as in all of his works, Sutton keeps the “big picture” in mind. .

A particularly insightful quote from Sutton encapsulates the political dimensions of gold money: “To ignore the political aims of the paper [money, TP] fanatics, by looking only at the monetary aspects, is to ignore the full breadth and scope of the modern drive towards what has been called a New World Order.” 

Sutton begins his book with important, astute insights into the chapters of monetary history. We learn, for example, that gold has been a reliable means of payment across cultural and religious spheres for thousands of years. As early as 1200 BC, the Chinese already used gold as a medium of exchange.

There is the gold solidus of the Byzantine Empire, a gold coin minted from 491 AD to 1453 that served as a reliable means of payment for around 1000 years.

In stark contrast to gold, Sutton illuminates the disastrous history of unbacked paper money (or fiat money). One early example is the paper money experiment of the Chinese in the 13th century, which failed miserably. 

Similarly, the French assignats that were issued between 1789 and 1796 – which not only resulted in the complete loss of value of the assignats but also plunged the French people into chaos and terror.

The suspension of the gold redeemability of the British pound from 1797 to 1821 was also anything but glorious. During this period, the perils of unbacked currency and its unchecked proliferation became apparent, resulting in the significant erosion of the purchasing power of the pound and inflicting considerable economic hardship on a wide swath of the population.

Similarly, the issue of the “Continentals” by the government of the young colonies in America during the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1779 also turned into a real fiasco. The Continental rapidly became worthless, giving rise to the colloquialism “not worth a Continental”. 

And let’s not forget the harrowing hyperinflation in Germany during the Weimar Republic, during which the purchasing power of the paper “mark” collapsed in November 1923 – and necessitated the disgraced paper mark to be replaced by a new currency, the Rentenmark.

In the light of these historical trials, Antony Sutton highlights the inherent economic virtues of gold – of gold money, that is: Gold has a disciplining influence; gold money limits the opportunities for those in power to misuse the money for their own gain.

In stark contrast to unbacked money, or fiat money, the amount of gold cannot arbitrarily be increased and not without incurring costs. This means that the inflationary policy, through which the rulers and special interest groups regularly seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the general population, is set within narrow limits or becomes virtually impossible.

This is precisely why rulers and governments have been fighting gold as money to this day, in what Sutton calls a “totalitarian assault on gold”. In this context, he writes frankly: 

“When we project early monetary experience to modern times, it should not surprise us to learn that all totalitarian societies, from John Law’s France to Hitler’s Third Reich to Stalin’s Soviet Empire, have conducted a war on gold. Indeed, the individual sovereignty granted by gold ownership must be removed as an essential prerequisite for an authoritarian regime. Gold grants sovereignty. In a dictatorship, all vestiges of sovereignty have to be consolidated in the hands of the ruling elite.” 

As you see, Sutton does not shy away from naming the true motivation for the “war on gold”: an insidious desire to dominate, oppress, and exploit others by certain individuals or entities. With its inherent value and stability, gold stands in the way of these sinister machinations. Consequently, those who want to wield power do not want the general population to own gold, let alone use gold as money.

A quote from Sutton sums it up succinctly: “Gold has always been prominent as a protector of individual sovereignty. Private gold ownership is inconsistent with the aims of dictatorship; a war on gold is a necessary concomitant to centralised political power.”

In his book, Sutton addresses arguments typically levelled against the practicality of returning to gold money. Perhaps most important in this context is the statement that there is too little gold in the world to (re)introduce a gold currency. 

Of course, that is economic nonsense. Any amount of gold currently available can indeed be used to establish gold money, whether on a national or international scale. The rationale behind this assertion is as follows:

The prices of goods, measured in gold, are determined by the balance of supply and demand for gold. In instances where gold is scarce (i.e. the supply of goods increases compared to its demand), the gold price of goods decreases until the real purchasing power of gold aligns with the preferences of the market agents. Clearly, there is no such thing as a “gold money shortage”. 

In this context, I would like to note that the annual growth rate of mined gold has averaged close to 2 per cent over the last 120 years. However, it is actually not at all necessary for the money supply to increase over time. An economy can also function with a constant or even shrinking money supply. 

The economic reality is that every available quantity of gold provides the same monetary services, regardless of the specific amount. Any existing amount of gold is adequate to facilitate any desired volume of transactions. A higher amount of gold would result in relatively elevated prices of goods, while with a smaller amount of gold, the prices of goods would be correspondingly lower.

As you can see, Sutton not only elucidates the political reasons why states sought to abolish gold-backed money and why they wage the “war on gold”; he also dispels popular arguments against gold money as unfounded.

Sutton informs his readers in quite some detail about the historical context surrounding the gradual removal of gold money from circulation. 

The last quarter of the 19th century was the age of gold money, often referred to as the time of the classic gold standard. All major currencies – US dollar, British pound, French franc, German mark – were gold-backed. 

However, many nations had suspended the gold redeemability of their currencies during World War I (the US being a notable exception) to print additional money to fund the war. 

Post-1918, most nations were reluctant to return to gold money for political reasons. At the international monetary conference in Genoa, the so-called gold exchange standard was established, a pyramidization of the official gold reserves that permitted an inflationary increase in the participating national paper currencies. This highly inflationary framework collapsed in 1931 amid the Great Depression, which had already begun in the US in the autumn of 1929.

The Bretton Woods System, adopted in 1944, attempted a partial, albeit very fragile, rehabilitation of gold money from 1945 onward. The concept involved using the US dollar as the world reserve currency, with 35 US dollars equating to 1 troy ounce of gold. All other currencies were pegged to the greenback at fixed exchange rates and were freely convertible into the Greenback. 

In essence, this setup represented a form of gold re-anchoring for the global monetary system. However, the US did not play by the rules of the game, issuing unbacked US dollars and causing rising inflation. Consequently, the Bretton Woods system began to unravel in the 1960s. 

The central banks had to grapple with a surging gold price – indicative of the dollar’s devaluation in the free market – by establishing the “London Gold Pool”. Comprising central banks from the US, Great Britain, France, Western Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium, this alliance sold official gold to prevent the gold price from rising further. Despite these efforts, the price of gold continued to rise, and in 1968, the London Gold Pool was dissolved.

Then, on August 15, 1971, US President Richard Nixon declared that the US dollar would no longer be redeemable for gold. By doing so, the US administration effectively imposed a fiat money standard on the world that persists to this day.

With the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, official currencies are no longer redeemable in gold. John Exter, the former President of the New York Fed succinctly captures the consequence:

“The paper dollar has become an ‘IOU nothing,’ as have all paper currencies in the world today. As such, one ‘IOU nothing’ currency has to trade in the marketplace every minute of every day against the ‘IOU nothings’ of all the other central banks. We are in a world of irredeemable paper money – a state of affairs unprecedented in history”. 

Sutton’s book provides a comprehensive overview of the many crises associated with fiat money – crises in the corporate and real estate sectors, municipal loan and foreign currency loan markets, the domestic banking system. 

Published in 1977, Sutton’s insights remain pertinent, with subsequent crises like the bursting of the New Economy bubble and the Great Financial Crisis serving as further illustrations of the evil repercussions tied to the fiat money system. 

As a keen observer of world events, Sutton sheds light on the 1975 meeting at Chateau Rambouillet in France, which led to a division in the Western world into two factions: the gold-supporting Europeans (the “pro-gold” camp) and American and British proponents of the paper dollar (the “anti-gold” camp). The Europeans, steadfast in their refusal to exhaustively defend the US dollar by selling their official gold, also prevented the sale of the International Monetary Fund’s gold, contrary to the preference of the United States. Instead, the pro-gold camp opted for it to be held as an asset.

Nevertheless, the campaign against gold continued. Sutton reveals a proposal made in the 1960s advocating for a US invasion of South Africa. At that time, South Africa was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the world’s gold production. Exploiting international criticism of apartheid, the United States contemplated military intervention against South Africa, aiming primarily to curb its gold supply (and thus safeguard the dominance of the US dollar).

The recommendation was made in 1965 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organisation that, as Sutton contends, was closely linked to the US establishment. Subsequently, the Leiss Report, issued by the same foundation, endorsed a gold boycott against South Africa or, alternatively, argued for measures reducing the price of gold. In any case, this animosity towards South Africa underscored yet another facet of the anti-gold camp’s relentless “war on gold” to uphold and expand US dollar imperialism. 

III.

In reflection, 46 years after the publication of Sutton’s “The War on Gold,” there are numerous insights still relevant today. 

1. Sutton reminds us that throughout monetary history, gold has consistently served as money, in fact, retaining its status as the quintessential medium of exchange, a role that remains unchanged to this day.

2. Throughout history, those in power have, whenever they had the chance, tried to remove gold from circulation for political rather than economic motives and replaced it with their own fiat money. 

Fiat money is inherently flawed, losing its purchasing power over time. It disproportionately benefits a select few at the expense of the broader population, leading to social inequities. Moreover, fiat money contributes to economic disruptions, such as boom-and-bust cycles, fosters excessive indebtedness, encourages wars, and allows the concentration of power in the hands of the state at the expense of the freedoms of citizens and entrepreneurs, paving the way toward tyranny.

3. Perhaps most importantly, Sutton’s insights teach us that the war on gold is far from over (and Sutton suggests that it may even intensify in the future). 

Well, it is essential to recognise that today’s war on gold is waged differently than in the past. Rather than employing outright bans and prohibitions, governments now increasingly rely on a) propaganda and b) financial alchemy to keep people from holding real gold. 

(a) Today’s state-controlled educational institutions provide limited coverage of gold’s role in the world’s monetary systems, leading to a decline in the younger generation’s knowledge about gold money.

At the same time, modern fiat money is praised as a great achievement to which there is no better alternative – and gold money is frequently dismissed as outdated and perceived as unable to meet the demands of the modern world. 

(b) The financial industry promotes investment products that purport to rival gold but fall short. A substantial number of investors readily purchase paper gold, that is, gold certificates, gold futures and options, and gold forwards, essentially representations of gold rather than actual physical gold.

This is particularly problematic, as paper gold products contribute to the detachment of the price of gold from the underlying physical market fundamentals, granting the financial industry significant (manipulative) influence over the price determination of gold.

(c) Sutton believed that a return of the gold ban in the US was likely – driven by the political ambition to uphold and expand US dollar imperialism. While gold possession has not been banned in the West, I contend that Sutton’s concern is still valid. As authoritarian ideas continue to expand around the world, especially with initiatives like the “Great Reset”, and as civil and entrepreneurial freedoms are pushed back further and further, the notion of a militant war on gold becomes increasingly conceivable.

IV.

Like it or not, the discourse on the merits and drawbacks of gold money is inextricably linked to questions of political ideology and power. Gold money stands for freedom, fiat money for bondage. 

And so the following question posed by Sutton must be interpreted as purely rhetorical: “[W]hy, if gold has the ability to provide stability, do we have the persistent propaganda for paper fiat currency systems – particularly when the end result has always been economic chaos?

At the end of his book, Sutton offers us crucial insight into the price of gold: “The single most important, long-run influence on the demand for gold is public confidence in the world’s monetary systems and the value of fiat money as a medium of exchange and a store of value.” 

He basically says that as long as people accept and value fiat money, the price of gold and its role will remain suppressed. However, if this trust in fiat money were to dissipate, only one real, practical alternative to fiat currencies (be it US dollars, euros, Japanese yen, etc.) would remain: gold.

As early as 1977, Sutton saw the possibility of a collapse of the fiat money regime, a perspective that, from today’s vantage point, was premature. Yet, the collapse of fiat money regime could be closer than many believe, and gold, as the “ultimate means of payment”, might soon face an unexpected renaissance – with the price of gold reaching unexpected levels, as governments and their central banks will lose “The War On Gold”.

In sum, Sutton’s 1977 book “The War On Gold” is more relevant than ever. Because Sutton understands, like no other, how to analyse gold from a political-economic, enlightened and courageous perspective. Sutton’s “The War On Gold” is a classic that every gold investor should delve into.

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