Even Gold Is Subject To Inflation

Analyst, Author, and Owner of Kelsey's Gold Facts
November 17, 2021

Yes, even gold is subject to inflation.

Most gold bugs think that a gold standard will solve our inflation problems. While it is true that gold acts as a restraint on governments and central banks desire to create and control money, it does not mean that inflation cannot happen just because gold is the money used.

The United States and most of the rest of the world, at one time or other, operated on a gold standard. Primarily, this meant that gold was the money of choice.

Since gold cannot be fabricated (fabricate – to invent or concoct (something), typically with deceitful intent) into existence, the debasement of the money supply cannot be accomplished with the same ease as central banks enjoy today.

Several centuries ago, independent rulers might clip coins and melt the clippings down, recasting them in the usual fashion. This meant that there were coins with small punch holes circulating with other coins that had no clips.

As more and more coins without punch clips disappeared from circulation, people became  more aware of what was by then obvious – the two types of coins in circulation were not of equal value.

Also, there were more coins in circulation. The total money supply had increased considerably and the effects of inflation were apparent. Higher prices for most goods and services were taking their toll.

In order to allay the fears and suspicions of the general population, the rulers turned to dilution. All coins were cast and issued with a lesser proportion of precious metal (gold or silver) and a larger percentage of base metal (copper, nickel, etc).

The coins appeared to be identical, but further inflation was easier now; just reduce the precious metal content and increase the content of base metal in each coin. (see History Of Gold As Money)

GOLD, INFLATION, AND MANSA MUSA

Mansa Musa  is considered by some historians to be the single, most wealthy  individual in history and his wealth is estimated to be the inflation-adjusted equivalent of four hundred billion US dollars in today’s money.

The following is from Wikipedia:

Musa made his pilgrimage (to Mecca) between 1324–1325. His procession reportedly included 60,000 men, including 12,000 slaves who each carried 4 lb (1.8 kg) of gold bars and heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses, and handled bags. Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire company of men and animals. Those animals included 80 camels which each carried 50–300 lb (23–136 kg) of gold dust. Musa gave the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa not only gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, but also traded gold for souvenirs. It was reported that he built a mosque every Friday. 

But Musa’s generous actions inadvertently devastated the economy of the regions through which he passed. In the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decade. Prices on goods and wares greatly inflated. To rectify the gold market, on his way back from Mecca, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.

The “sudden influx of gold” constituted an increase in the supply of money which resulted in “prices on goods and wares greatly inflated”.  This is a classic, historical example of inflation.

The economies of the regions that Musa visited were relatively industrious with a reasonably stable economy.  And the gold which Musa carried with him was not, for the most part, circulating as part of the money supply in the world at that time. In a short period of time, large amounts of gold (i.e. money) were put in circulation.  With more money available, more aggressive bidding for various “goods and wares” drove prices for those items higher.

The ‘higher prices’ for goods and wares was an inverse reflection of the loss of purchasing power of the money (gold) in circulation.

Gold is not immune to inflation. This is not an indictment of gold. But it does serve to illustrate the vulnerability of money regarding the consequences of inflation.

Mansa Musa acted benevolently, as an individual; and his actions and resulting effects were basically a one-time event.

On the other hand, inflation, as practiced by the United States Government and the Federal Reserve, is intentional and perpetual – over one hundred years old and still going strong.  The effects of those efforts are unpredictable and volatile. And the value of our money continues to erode.

Whereas, Musa acted immediately to help alleviate the problem which his actions created by borrowing “all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest”, the Federal Reserve purposely inflicts harm on the monetary system by continually expanding the supply of money and credit.  This distorts every monetary measure of value we are inclined to rely on and at some point the system will implode.

The problems arising from Musa’s actions were systemic and not related to the ‘form’ of money in use.  And those problems were limited because the money supply was limited.  No one could produce more money (i.e. gold) by printing it.

Which is why governments hate gold. It is a restraint on their free-spending, expansionary policies. Even the example of Mansa Musa does not diminish the role gold plays in this regard. Or its rightful place as real money – original money. (also see The Gold Price And Inflation)

Kelsey Williams is the author of two books: INFLATION, WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT ISN’T, AND WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR IT and ALL HAIL THE FED!

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Kelsey Williams has more than forty years experience in the financial services industry, including fourteen years as a full-service financial planner. His website, Kelsey's Gold Facts, contains self-authored articles written for the purpose of educating and informing others about gold within a historical context. In addition to gold, he writes about inflation and the Federal Reserve.

Kelsey is the author of two books: INFLATION, WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT ISN'T, AND WHO'S RESPONSIBLE FOR IT and ALL HAIL THE FED! 

Kelsey Williams is available for private consultations, public speaking, and interviews at [email protected]

Due primarily to the California Gold Rush, San Francisco’s population exploded from 1,000 to 100,000 in only two years.

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