Gold News

The Descent of Money

Breast is best, robots can't kiss, and paper money fails – in the long run – to become Gold...


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
have produced many wondrous breakthroughs, writes Bill Bonner in his Daily Reckoning, but there are some things science cannot improve.

A kiss from natural lips is still the lover's choice. Baby formula proved no match for the real thing. Ersatz money is a flop too. That last item is not so much a fact as a prediction.

The first modern competition between gold and paper money ended like the pre-modern ones. Gold won. Herewith, a short summary...

A Scottish rogue, John Law, was the protagonist of the story. He killed Beau Wilson in a duel in London's Bloomsbury Square. Then, he went on the lam...first to Scotland...then to Amsterdam...and finally to Paris. Like Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke, he made himself useful to people in high places – in this case the Duke d'Orleans, who needed money. Law had a way to get it:

"I have discovered the secret of the philosophers' stone," he is said to have remarked, "it is to make gold out of paper."

We need to look no further. Law may have been good with figures; it was at philosophy that he failed.

Because a thing cannot be both one thing and a different thing at the same time. It is either Gold, or it is paper. It cannot be both.

Rarity and durability give gold value as money. Paper's most conspicuous properties are just the opposite – it is common, and it has a tendency to curl up and blow away. Law's new, easy money helped France to an economic recovery – or so it seemed. But in the end, the philosophical error caught up with him.

Gold
has real value. So if you can create it at will, why not create more of it? It was just a matter of time before he had created too much. Soon, there was an angry mob outside Law's office on the Rue Quincampoix. People who held his paper gold had come to see it in a different light. Where once they cherished it as paper gold...now they despised it as nothing but paper.

Law's scheme increased France's money supply – including banknotes and shares in his Mississippi company – by 300%. Prices in Paris doubled between 1718 and 1720. Then, when the new money system began to give way, the Duke d'Orleans cranked up the printing press. By 1721, Law's money was worthless. "Banque" became a dirty word in France, and stayed dirty for the next 200 years.

Today's current experiment with paper money began on the Sunday, 15 August 1971. Henceforth, said Richard Nixon, foreign countries that wished to exercise their right to trade US Dollars for Gold could drop dead. From then on, the Dollar was worth only what someone would give you for it.

Philosophers held their breath. But nothing happened. Many have died since, waiting for the Dollar to succumb first. Still, the millstones of monetary history may grind slowly, but the more slowly they grind, the more fingers they pinch.

The new paper money standard allowed for a worldwide credit boom – just as in Paris following the establishment of Law's scheme. The US created Dollars. Its citizens spent them. The Dollars accumulated as reserves all over the world...and every central bank raced to keep up. Soon, the exporters were producing too much. The importers were consuming too much. And there was too much money and credit everywhere.

The Japanese economy was the first to blow up, back in 1989. The tech sector on Wall Street was next to go – in 1999. Finally, in 2007, the planet-wide bubble popped. Suddenly, the whole world was Japan. And now, every nation in Christendom, to say nothing of the others, is following Law's example.

All nations issue paper gold – in the form of bills, notes, and bonds – as if they were the Banque Royale. Europe is estimated to need $2.2 trillion in deficit funding this year. America will need at least a trillion more. If the depression deepens, maybe $2 trillion.

How long can this go on? Where will it lead?

"There are no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion," wrote Ludwig von Mises. "The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved."

Last Tuesday, the S&P rating agency issued a warning. If Japan continues in the direction it is going, it will have Hell to pay.

Japan leads the way into the future. And into a monetary minefield. Her current deficit – a record – is more than her tax revenue. And her public debt is nearly 7 times as great. Her feet grow larger.

No natural life survives the lifecycle. And no paper currency standard has ever survived a complete credit cycle. It is just a matter of time until we hear the explosion and see body parts flying.

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Bill Bonner has co-authored a number of New York Times Bestsellers including Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Markets and Messiahs. In his own opinion, Bill's most recent title, A Modest Theory of Civilization: Win-Win or Lose, is his best work yet. Bill also founded The Agora, a worldwide community for private researchers and publishers, in 1979. Financial analysts within the group have exposed and predicted some of the world's biggest shifts since that time, starting with the fall of the Soviet Union back in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Dot Com (2000) and then mortgage finance (2008) bubbles, and more recently the election of President Trump.

See full archive of Bill Bonner articles

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