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Gold: The Republican Death Wish

The libertarian (Ron Paul) wing of the Republican party desires a complete rethink of US monetary policy, and has succeeded in having a monetary commission added to the GOP platform. Let's take a look at the Paulist ideas.

Among the libertarian desiderata are:
1. Abolition of the central bank.
2. An end to fiat money and a return to a metallic or bimetallic monetary standard.
3. Privatization of currency issuance.

It should be noted that these are not wild and crazy ideas from outer space. The US functioned under similar systems at various times in history:
1. The US was on the gold standard, in various forms and with occasional interruptions, from 1789 until 1971.
2. The US abolished its central bank in 1836 and did not revive it until 1914.
3. Any licensed bank was able to print paper currency from 1789 until 1862.

This shows that these “wild-eyed” ideas have been tried before with reasonable success. The US did exceedingly well under these pre-modern monetary arrangements, experiencing rapid growth with no inflation (that’s right: the price level did not rise from 1789 until 1933). On the other hand, the US experienced wild swings in the business cycle with depressions occurring in every decade. Some of these depressions were as bad as the Great Depression, which was itself caused by the gold standard.