There are many good recommendations promoted by Austrian school economists for improving the economy. Although we enjoy successes periodically, most–such as deregulating trucking and airline pricing–involve eliminating previous government interventions. These successes are to be celebrated, of course. But no one can deny that government intervention into the economy has continued, despite these occasional success stories.
The reason Big Government has continued to grow is that it controls money production. Not only does government grow in terms of spending, regulations, and interventions everywhere (both internally and overseas), but it threatens our very freedoms. In other words, government’s control of money is diametrically opposed to peace, prosperity, and freedom and eventually will destroy our republican democracy. For this reason, returning to sound money–i.e., money that is created by the private market, is part and parcel of the market, and is controlled by no one–should be goal number one for every lover of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Nothing less than the survival of our western-style way of life is at stake.
Here are a few examples of how unsound money progresses and masks its destructive power.
- One, unsound money allows government to confiscate resources at will. For example, in 2020 America’s bloated military spent as much as the next eleven nations of the world combined. Of course, military spending went up in 2021 and will continue to increase in 2022. America’s annual budget deficit is projected to be somewhere between $1.84 trillion and $3.4 trillion, depending upon whether you ask the Biden administration or the Congressional Budget Office. All of this money is created out of thin air. Americans’ taxes will not increase enough to cover even a fraction of the Biden estimate, and there is no appetite in the bond market for more American debt. Therefore, the Fed will monetize the new debt onto its balance sheet. The resulting increase in base money will cause the prices of most goods and services to rise. This impoverishment of the American people through the hidden tax of inflation is possible only because money is completely fiat; i.e., produced out of nothing except the government’s printing press and computer terminals.
- Two, unsound money masks the destructive power of government market interventions. An example is former President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. According to a friend of mine, the data is irrefutable that the tariffs worked. Well, as Mark Twain said, there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics. What really is irrefutable is the economic law of opportunity cost; i.e., that choosing one thing means the giving up of another. Another is individual preference. The very fact that people must not be allowed to purchase Chinese goods means that they valued those goods to a higher extent than American goods. The reason does not have to be financial. There’s always service, availability, quality, etc. So preventing Americans from buying Chinese goods means less satisfaction for Americans. This is just one example. Another is keeping zombie companies in business through artificially lower interest rates means that capital is misallocated to less productive uses. There’s a whole panoply of labor laws that artificially raises the cost of American labor, reduces American productivity, and lowers business income. Some workers are priced out of the market through minimum wage and mandatory benefit packages. Business has less capital to invest for expansion. New business starts are discouraged. There’s something there for everyone! The destruction is masked by monetarily inflated GDP numbers, artificially suppressed Consumer Price Index (CPI) statistics, increased unemployment payments, and other government programs and manipulated data.
- Three, and most importantly, Americans’ freedom is threatened. Government can print enough money to buy unlimited enforcers of its rules. More IRS agents. More agents for enforcing arbitrary rules of the Occupational, Safety, and Health Administration (OSHA). More agents for enforcing new environmental regulations and laws arbitrarily established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents. Perhaps even agents to confiscate guns.
Returning to limited government, creating a more free market order, having a less intrusive government, etc. requires sound money. Sound money is not a guarantee of a free society, but a free society is impossible without sound money.
I conclude with these quotes from The Quotable Mises. The last quote is especially pertinent to the point of this brief essay. (Emphasis is mine.)
- The gold standard alone makes the determination of money’s purchasing power independent of the ambitions and machinations of governments, of dictators, of political parties, and of pressure groups. The gold standard alone is what the nineteenth-century freedom-loving leaders (who championed representative government, civil liberties, and prosperity for all) called “sound money.”
- All those intent upon sabotaging the evolution toward welfare, peace, freedom, and democracy loathed the gold standard, and not only on account of its economic significance. In their eyes the gold standard was the labarum, the symbol, of all those doctrines and policies they wanted to destroy.
- The classical or orthodox gold standard alone is a truly effective check on the power of the government to inflate the currency. Without such a check all other constitutional safeguards can be rendered vain.
I do not want to close on a pessimistic note. Therefore, I offer this final quote from Ludwig von Mises, ever the optimist and ever the gentleman.
- Every nation, whether rich or poor, powerful or feeble, can at any hour once again adopt the gold standard.