Claudio Koller Β· 3/8/2023

What is a Gold Standard?

A gold standard is a system in which a currency is backed by gold, with the country's government or central bank holding gold reserves to enable conversion. Historically, the gold standard has been considered one of the most stable forms of monetary system.

Origin Gold Standard

The principle of the gold standard dates back to the discovery of gold as a medium of exchange.

In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, gold was used as a means of payment, but it was not until the 17th century that a complete system encompassing the gold standard developed.

> Learn more about what exactly a Medium of Exchange is.

Basic Idea Gold Standard

The idea behind the gold standard is that a country's currency is equivalent to a fixed amount of gold. The currency is thus subject to a physical scarcity that cannot be diluted or manipulated by a country's government or central bank.

Unlike a currency that is not backed by gold or other commodities, a currency based on a gold standard cannot be easily diluted to pay debts or create inflation.

A gold standard also provides a stable basis for international trade. When all countries use a gold standard, the exchange rate between currencies is stable and protected from sudden fluctuations. This promotes international trade and creates trust between trading partners.

Gold and silver have an intrinsic value that is not arbitrary. It depends on their scarcity, the amount of labor devoted to their acquisition, and it lies in the value of the capital that is in the mines that produce them.

David Ricardo (1772 - 1823), British economist

> Learn why Gold is valuable and it has been used as a Store of Value for Centuries.

US Dollar and the Bretton Woods System

Prior to 1971, the international monetary system was based on what is known as the Bretton Woods Agreement, which was concluded between the leading economic nations in 1944.

Under the system, the U.S. dollar served as the reserve currency and traded at a fixed exchange rate against other major currencies such as the German mark, the British pound, and the Japanese yen.

> Learn more about what exactly a Reserve Currency is.

An important aspect of the Bretton Woods system was that the U.S. dollar was fully backed by gold. This meant that any U.S. dollar bill could be exchanged for a certain amount of gold. Other currencies were indirectly linked to the dollar and could also be exchanged for a fixed amount of gold.

Gold is a currency. It is still - by all indications - a premium currency. No fiat currency, including the dollar, equals it.

Alen Greenspan, FED President (1987 - 2006)

> Learn more about the Bretton Woods System.

1971 - Abolition of the Gold Standard

The Bretton Woods system worked well as long as the U.S. had enough gold reserves to back its currency. However, in the 1960s economic problems, particularly a growing trade deficit and involvement in various wars, began to deplete U.S. gold reserves.

When the U.S. ran into financial difficulties, the government decided to abandon the gold standard and float the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.

This happened on August 15, 1971, when then U.S. President Richard Nixon announced in a televised speech that the U.S. was going off the gold standard.

Until that time, every citizen could exchange $35 for an ounce of gold.

> Learn more about the Nixon Shock.

Consequences Abolition of the Gold Standard

This step had far-reaching consequences for the international monetary system. Without the gold standard, each state could now decide for itself how much money to put into circulation. At the same time, banks were able to expand their lending operations to the global economy.

This means that the currencies of the world today are no longer backed by physical gold or any other material resource, but are based only on trust in the currency in question and the country behind it.

Without a gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from expropriation by inflation. Then there is no safe store of value (...) The financial policy of the welfare state makes it necessary that there is no way for wealthy people to protect themselves. This is the shabby secret of the welfare state tirades against gold. Deficit financing is simply a measure of Β«hiddenΒ» expropriation of wealth.

Alen Greenspan, FED President (1987 - 2006)

Economic Theory of the Austrian School

Adherents of the alternative economic theory of the Austrian School continue to advocate a gold standard as the ideal monetary system.

Many of today's proponents of this theory invoke the economic teachings of Carl Menger, Friedrich August von Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises, who lived in the last century.

This theory states that a currency should be based on a stable foundation that is not influenced by political decisions or market manipulation. Gold is often considered an ideal foundation because it is a limited resource and its availability cannot be easily manipulated.

> Learn more about the Austrian School of Economics.

Gold Standard vs. Bitcoin

The gold standard and bitcoin are two different monetary systems with some similarities. Both systems are based on the idea of using a physical scarce commodity, gold and Bitcoin respectively, as a store of value and medium of exchange.

However, the gold standard was a centralized system that relied on the ability of governments and national banks to maintain fixed exchange rates. In addition, gold holdings are centrally stored and managed.

In contrast, bitcoin is a decentralized digital system that uses cryptographic algorithms to enable peer-to-peer transactions without the need for centralized entities and third parties.

Despite their differences, the gold standard and bitcoin both represent attempts to create a sound and secure monetary system without a central authority, such as a government or central bank.


The gold standard was a fundamental basis for global monetary policy for many years. Until the 20th century, currencies were valued and traded based on gold reserves.

Although the gold standard is no longer used today, it had a significant impact on the global economy and financial system and remains an important historical issue.

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