The Gold Standard: Copernicus, Newton, Priestley… and Trump?

From left: Sir Isaac Newton and Donald Trump
From left: Sir Isaac Newton and Donald Trump

Sam Kriss, in The Atlantic, has a wonderful new story, “Flat-Earthers Have A Wild New Theory About Forests,” in which I find an oblique allusion to… myself.

Still, among all the bizarre, self-enclosed universes the internet has to offer — gold-standard bores, UFO chasers, people who believe that cartoons are real in a nearby dimension or that the secret rulers of the world are betraying their existence by leaving little clues on the currency — the flat-earthers are special.

No, I’m not a UFO chaser, nor a believer in cartoon dimensions, or a proponent of the theory of secret rulers of the world. As to the latter, I once published a blog debunking, rather re-debunking, the alt-right canard that a Rothschild said something like “Give me control of a Nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.” (It’s a totally fabricated quote.)

I’m a gold standard bore. And I’ve been called, by a Washington Post Magazine (humor) columnist, “the second most conservative man in the world” for my gold standard advocacy.

There is a delicious irony in lumping a gold standard geek in with premoderns like Flat Earthers.

The gold standard’s pedigree runs from Copernicus (who dispelled the allied theory that the Sun goes around the Earth and also wrote brilliantly in favor of the gold standard), Sir Isaac Newton (founder of modern classical physics who, as Master of the Royal Mint, accidentally invented the modern classical gold standard), and Joseph Priestley (the discoverer of oxygen, who wrote at length about the gold standard).

These icons of modern astronomy, classical physics, and chemistry all vouch for the goodness of the gold standard. Their antiquity in no way undermines their scientific discoveries. Smart guys! The gold standard is no more obsolete than the principles of astronomy, physics, or chemistry.

Meanwhile, among anti-gold standard icons we find William Jennings Bryan, giver of the infamous “cross of gold speech” which got him nominated for president in 1896. Bryan, of course, is mostly remembered for his final act, prosecuting John Scopes for teaching evolution in the Tennessee public schools. Bryan is also a Biblical Creationist icon. How’s that for premodern?

That said, Kriss is on to something. There are innumerable gold standard bores. As President Warren Harding once said to journalist William Alan White: “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my g-d friends, White, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor nights.”

Still, perhaps I too am a bore. The mechanics of the gold standard, although it has a storied and sometimes dramatic history, are about as interesting as discussing how the National Institute of Standards and Technology keeps the inch and the ounce precisely defined. Yawn!

The gold standard is the stuff of science and engineering. Real geek stuff.

I’ll spare you.

But do take note of just one thing: oceans of economic history show that the gold standard correlates beautifully — far better than anything else that has ever been tried — with job creation, upward income mobility, and equitable prosperity.

Great politics.
Great policy.

So, Mr. Kriss, let me propose something. Once the gold standard is enacted, as Donald Trump has twice hinted he would favor doing, I’ll stop freighting the Internet with boring stuff. Once we’ve laid the foundation for a golden age of prosperity and peace I’ll give it up. Lend a hand!

Deal?

Ralph Benko, internationally published weekly columnist, co-author of The 21st Century Gold Standard, lead co-editor of the Gerald Malsbary translation from Latin to English of Copernicus’s Essay on Money, is American Principles Project’s Senior Advisor, Economics.