Ron Paul’s manifesto, The Revolution, is a remarkable read, not least for his account of Alan Greenspan:
Few Americans during his tenure knew that Greenspan had once been an outspoken advocate of the gold standard as the only monetary system that a free society should consider. Not long after my return to Congress in the election of 1996, I spoke with Greenspan at a special event that took place just before he was to speak in front of the House Banking Committee. At this event congressmen had a chance to meet and have their pictures taken with the Fed chairman. I decided to bring along my original copy of his 1966 article from the Objectivist Newsletter called “Gold and Economic Freedom”, an outstanding piece in which he laid out the economic and moral case for a commodity-based monetary system as against a fiat paper system. He graciously agreed to sign it for me. As he was doing so, I asked if he wanted to write a disclaimer on the article. He replied good-naturedly that he had recently reread the piece and that he would not change a word of it. I found that fascinating: could it be that, in his heart of hearts, Greenspan still believed in the bulletproof logic of that classic article?
Congressman Paul goes on to write that Greenspan expressed a different view before a later committee but that his views are ultimately unimportant: it is the system that matters. It appears Greenspan agreed:
A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.
Greenspan goes on to blame the Great Depression on the Fed’s creation of excess credit: a bitter irony.
Greenspan’s article may be found here. Quite what we are to make today of his advocacy of gold is a matter for further study, particularly as Gordon Brown sold half our reserves, without Bank of England advice, at the bottom of the market.