A return to sound money will require a radical reform of financial markets, as well as the laws and regulations under which banks and investment houses work. The weaknesses of the current fiat-money system must be identified and understood by reforming governments. It also amounts to no less than discarding the entire evolution of mainstream economic thinking that has evolved in the welfare-states
Revolutions of this sort normally occur after a major economic and financial failure, when the shortcomings of
For those who have a thorough understanding of sound money and the benefits it brings to an economy, the opportunity presented by Asia rejecting the West’s unsound money system should be welcomed. The lunacy of expanding the quantity of money as a cure-all for every economic malaise, real and imagined, has led to the widespread expansion of debt to unsustainable levels. It is no exaggeration to say that the global financial system, being based on the dollar, is now exposed to a final collapse, worse than that of the financial crisis of 2008-09, and leading inevitably to the destruction of the fiat currencies we use today.
The destruction of unsound money will not happen overnight. It will come from the central banks’ response to the next global debt crisis. In such a crisis, the banking system, being geared through the fractional reserve system, will cease to exist without central banks bailing it out with unlimited quantities of raw money.
There is little point in trying to predict the timing of this increasingly certain event, or how the crisis will first manifest itself. We know that the credit cycle progresses remorselessly from rescue, to recovery, to bust. The bust is yet to come. The bust, thanks to the
If China, Russia and the SCO can grasp the opportunity to escape the unsound money-system of the Western establishment, they will at least partially insulate three billion people from a global currency disaster. That will ultimately benefit the rest of humanity. We must applaud that, even though the introduction of sound money policies in Asia will almost certainly bring forward the crisis in the indebted welfare-states; that is going to happen anyway. For this reason, the change
The effect on commodity prices
Thus, it is with gold,
There can be little doubt that the
It is also important that China, in the first instance, announces it has sufficient gold for the standard to stick, so that it has no need to acquire further bullion from the markets. It is likely, however, that other central banks, particularly the Reserve Bank of India, will want to build their own gold reserves, rather than accept a gold-backed yuan as backing for the rupee. These are political, rather than economic, judgements. India has for some time tried to acquire as a national asset the physical gold held by its citizens and the Hindu temples, with little success. India’s requirements for gold to back its own currency in the SCO is too great to be satisfied at current prices through market purchases. Furthermore, other Asian central banks will also want to add to their gold reserves.
We can conclude therefore that the
As the world’s largest importer of energy and industrial materials, this price suppression has been to China’s benefit, so far. Doubtless, China has been broadly content for dollar suppression of commodity prices to continue in the ordinary course of business. Maintaining a stable yuan/dollar rate has also allowed Chinese-based manufacturers to profit from export markets generally, setting in motion a wealth-transfer accumulation in
Fortunately for China, she is now almost ready to discard America as a strategic market, building on trade in Asia instead, and with Europe via the overland rail link. The days of exporting cheap goods are over, and the economy is being upgraded towards a greater content of technology, automation, and quality. The similarities with the development of the Japanese economy between 1950 and 1980 are striking. Additionally, China is causing an industrial revolution to occur throughout the Asian continent. In conjunction with Russia (which is along for the ride) Asia, through the SCO, is becoming an integral part of China for economic purposes.
It is now in China’s interest
This is the underlying logic for anchoring the yuan to gold. In doing so, the cost of imported commodities will fall at the same time as China faces price inflation pressures from earlier monetary expansion.
The economic effects
Preventing a fall in the purchasing power of the yuan will be a growing priority, as China’s middle classes increase in their numbers. Not only are factory workers and businesses accumulating wealth, but the Chinese authorities plan to redeploy yet more people from the land into the cities. This will add as many as 200 million people
The shortage of
This is the economic reason for the yuan to go
Modern economists will say that a sharply revalued yuan will undermine the terms of trade. This is to misunderstand the origins of trade imbalances, which arise principally from differentials in rates of growth of money supply and savings. So long as these are unaffected, a rising currency rate does not alter the balance of trade, only affecting the short-term profitability of exporting businesses. The response of an exporting business to a rising base currency is to invest in more efficient production to restore margins. Again, this is confirmed by the empirical evidence of Germany and Japan in the last century. China
The balance of trade will only deteriorate if the savings rate deteriorates, and if China’s savings rate remains significantly higher than those of her trading partners, she will continue to run a trade surplus, even on a stronger dollar/
We can therefore be
The effect on the dollar’s purchasing power would be to undermine it relative to that of gold. It will not take very long for this to be reflected in the dollar prices of other commodities, because commodity prices tend to be more stable expressed in gold than in fiat currencies. The undermining of the dollar’s purchasing power against commodities may not be immediate, but it is likely to accelerate as markets adjust to these new price relationships, making price inflation the dominant problem in America. The rise in interest rates that is bound to follow will certainly lead to systemic difficulties for the American banks.
The reintroduction of sound money will have a major impact on the way banks operate. Fortunately, the Chinese government owns the major banks, so it can dictate banking policy without the repercussions that the Americans would face in the same situation from a powerful banking lobby. This is the crux of the argument in
The degree to which sound money can be mixed with unsound
The history of the gold standard in the nineteenth century clearly showed that the expansion of bank credit always ended in a credit crisis. To avoid the crisis, the solution is to do away with bank credit. It is an open question whether the Chinese would be bold enough in its banking reform to do this, and whether they understand that the business cycle is in fact no more than a credit cycle. On this point hangs the durability of a sound-money arrangement.
If China does grasp this nettle firmly, it will need to separate deposit-taking from loan business. For customers, there must be a separation of spending liquidity from their savings. Spending liquidity can be maintained in cash or electronically in a
Insurance companies are already in this business, as
The arrangements of a banking system based on sound money are relatively simple to understand. The restrictions to its introduction lie elsewhere, because the global banking system as currently constituted has too many vested interests for sound-money systems to be adopted by Western governments. Bank regulators and bank executives have no experience of how a sound-money system works, instead seeking to control lending risk in a highly-leveraged fiat-money system. The essential flaw in this approach is to assume a state regulator understands commercial risk. And because the regulator is out of his depth, the system is always open to being gamed by the banks, while regulators are under political pressure not to admit to the presence of systemic weaknesses.
It is not only the regulators and the bank executives who are locked into a banking system that must ultimately fail. The economists that advise them are firm believers in the expansion of bank credit as a means of encouraging business activity and consumer spending. Keynesians and monetarists alike view the support of sound money policies as a form of mental aberration. But this is more than anything else a reflection of how far state-driven thinking has become removed from the realities of the markets.
Concluding remarks It is one thing to advocate sound money policies to replace the unsound money we all use today, but it is another to implement them. It requires a new revolution in economic thinking, and an understanding of why sound money matters with respect to prices. Its introduction is likely to disrupt the currencies and economies of the countries that remain with unbacked fiat money systems. Furthermore, if a sound-money arrangement for a currency is to be long-lasting, it will require the end of fractional reserve banking.
The purpose of this article has been to draw attention to just a few of the practical difficulties in reintroducing sound money. Sound money is radically different from what we have today, and so the only chance it will be reintroduced for the Western currencies is in the wake of a financial crisis so great that these unsound currencies are destroyed.
While this outcome is increasingly likely, no government or central bank is likely to give up easily the power of creating money out of thin air. This is certainly true in the West’s welfare-states, where there are enormous future commitments, considerably greater than can be covered through taxation. It is less true in China, Russia, and the member-states of the SCO, who could relatively easily adopt gold backing for their currencies, for the long-term benefit of their economies.
However, it would be a stretch of imagination to assume that the Chinese and Russians, as leaders of the SCO, fully grasp the implications with respect to monetary reform of this nature. Instead, the move towards gold backing for the yuan and then the
That was the assumption in my original Insight article, published last week. This is a move that, if it happens, will be driven by evolving geopolitical interests, which appear to have accelerated since President Trump came to office. That being the case, we can only assume that once introduced, a sound-money yuan, or a rouble backed by gold, will be just the start of a revolution in economic thinking, exposing Keynesian and monetarist myths that are now so obviously undermining the future of the welfare-states.
- Source, Alasdair Macleod