Monetary scholar Edwin Vieira … pointed out that every 30 to 40 years the reigning monetary system fails and has to be retooled. The last time around for the U.S. was in 1971, when Nixon cancelled the convertibility of dollars into gold. Remarkably, the world bought into the unbacked dollar as its reserve currency, but only because that was the path of least resistance. But here we are 40 years later, and it is clear to anyone paying attention that the monetary system is irretrievably broken and will fail.
What will replace it is still unclear, but I suspect that when the stuff really hits the fan and inflation rages the government will try the approach taken by the Germans to end their hyperinflation back in the 1920s, coming up with the equivalent of the Rentenmark – a dollar that is loosely linked to some basket of commodities and financial instruments. It won’t be convertible, because it would be impossible for bank tellers to exchange your dollar for a cup of oil, and a coupon off of a bond, and a chip of gold, or whatever makes up the basket – but it might restore some semblance of confidence in the currency. That’s one option. Another is that some government decides to make its currency convertible into precious metals; but that will only happen when all other less fiscally restraining systems have been floated and failed. Simply, at this point we can’t know what will replace the current monetary system, or when. All we can know is that the status quo cannot and so will not survive this crisis.
Regardless, between now and the point in time where the Fed throws in the towel on today’s fiat monetary system, you would have to be naïve in the extreme not to expect volatility, uncertainty, and wholesale financial dislocations.
Prior to this from 1944 to 1971 we were on the Bretton Woods agreement a fixed the value of 35 United States dollars to one troy of gold.
Other currencies were pegged to the U.S. dollar at fixed rates. The U.S. promised to redeem dollars in gold to other central banks. Trade imbalances were corrected by gold reserve exchanges or by loans from the IMF. This system collapsed when the United States government ended the convertibility of the US dollar for gold in 1971, in what became known as the Nixon Shock.
In monetary economics, fiat money is an intrinsically useless product, used as a means of payment. In some micro-founded models of money, fiat money is created internally in a community making feasible trades that would not otherwise be possible, either because producers and consumers may not anonymously write IOUs, or because of physical constraints.
In a fiat monetary system, there is no restrain on the amount of money that can be created. This allows unlimited credit creation. Initially, a rapid growth in the availability of credit is often mistaken for economic growth, as spending and business profits grow and frequently there is a rapid growth in equity prices. In the long run, however, the economy tends to suffer much more by the following contraction than it gained from the expansion in credit.
In most cases, a fiat monetary system comes into existence as a result of excessive public debt. When the government is unable to repay all its debt in gold or silver, the temptation to remove physical backing rather than to default becomes irresistible. This was the case in 18th century France during the Law scheme, as well as in the 70s in the US, when Nixon removed the last link between the dollar and gold which is still in effect today.
Hyper-inflation is the terminal stage of any fiat currency. In hyper-inflation, money looses most of its value practically overnight. Hyper-inflation is often the result of increasing regular inflation to the point where all confidence in money is lost. In a fiat monetary system, the value of money is based on confidence, and once that confidence is gone, money irreversibly becomes worthless, regardless of its scarcity. Gold has replaced every fiat currency for the past 3000 years.
The gold standard is an essential protection against inflation of the money supply. While the possibility of the government enacting a legal gold standard is presently remote, gold can be used by individuals as a standard to protect themselves from monetary inflation now, today, by anyone. To do so requires simply moving mid to long term savings into gold and converting back to any currency when needed at a later date. Anyone who wishes to adopt gold as his own, personal standard can do so immediately.