Peter Lindstrom: Ron Paul’s Gold Double Standard

This article has been updated.

In April, it was revealed that among the advisors to Ron Paul’s newly opened Institute for Peace and Prosperity were: an anti-semite; a flake who thinks Abraham Lincoln is one of history’s greatest monsters; a 9-11 conspiracy theorist; and Lew Rockwell.

But that’s not why April was a cruel month for Paul.

April saw the price of gold drop to levels unseen since 1980.

Paul invests almost exclusively in gold. His portfolio is “a half-step away from a cellar-full of canned goods and nine-millimeter rounds.” So when asked if he had second thoughts about his belief that gold is the only secure benchmark of real wealth, Paul said no. Instead, he hinted at a conspiracy by President Obama and Wall Street to slash the price of gold, citing 53,000 gold contracts sold that very day.

It took only 40 metric tons of gold to panic gold markets. There are 170,000 metric tons of investment gold in the entire world.

As usual, Paul is so very wrong. There is no conspiracy. Gold prices had been plummeting for months — and the reason for that is simple: Gold is a lousy investment.

Indeed, its value had been soaring since 2008. Panicky investors fell prey to “experts” like Glenn Beck who declared that Obama’s stimulus and the Euro crisis would push gold to $2,000 an ounce—even $10,000 was possible! But the inflation crisis never happened. By the end of February, gold dropped to $300 per ounce.

So much for the stability of gold.

Furthermore, the tiny gold market is conspiracy prone. Rumors that Cyprus might sell its entire reserve of 40 metric tons of gold were another reason for the great April crash.

Forty metric tons: that’s all it took to start a panic. Thus if Obama really wanted to tank the gold market, as Paul hinted that he does, all he had to do was sell off a smidgen of America’s 8,600 metric tons. In fact, the world’s entire supply of investment gold is 170,000 metric tons, which would fit into a 14-foot cube.

Consider also the case of the Hunt brothers (they were the Koch brothers of the 1970s) who lost everything when they invested their entire fortune to corner the silver market. They believed hyperinflation would render the world’s currencies worthless. Instead, silver prices crashed and after seeing billions from their accounts disappear, they went bankrupt.

This is why two major 20th-century economists believed that the gold standard was a rotten idea. Liberal John Kenneth Galbraith and libertarian Milton Friedman hated each but knew tying money to a single commodity kills economic growth. Had we been dumb enough to return to the gold standard, the crash of April 18 would have caused a brand-new depression—in spite of recovering financial markets and growing employment.

Let’s assume there really was a conspiracy on April 18. If that were true (and it’s not), Paul would be tacitly admitting that all its takes  to trigger a meltdown is 53,000 contracts. Let’s put that in perspective — tens of billions of stock shares are traded daily.

Remember that old proverb about who really profits in a gold rush? Not the people who dig for the gold, but the people who sell the shovels. Paul must know that proverb well. Today, he’s still earning millions by publishing a newsletter that tells readers to buy gold!

 

Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.