Gold is showing signs of life, rallying 5% last weekafter tumbling by over 20% since the beginning of the year.
For whatever reason, people are buying.
One of the most common criticisms against gold is that it serves no productive purpose. It has limited industrial applications and it doesn’t pay any dividends.
Gold bulls often argue that gold serves as a hedge against currency devaluation. Many go as far as to say that “gold is money.”
However, everyone knows you can’t go to the grocery store and expect them to sell you milk for gold shavings. And therefore gold is certainly not money.
Dylan Grice, an analyst formerly with Societe Generale, argues that this is a misunderstanding of gold and money.
In a commentary for the July issue of the Edelweiss Journal, Grice articulates the case for gold by addressing the two main criticisms: gold is not productive and gold is not money.
Let us leave you with a final thought on the attractiveness of gold at this moment in time. Not only is it that rare thing in today’s markets — widely hated — but it is poorly understood. We frequently hear that it has “no use,” unlike other commodities like oil, grain or copper. Yet this betrays a fundamental ignorance of the importance of exchange in society, and the role money plays in the facilitation of that exchange. In the long history of our species, we aren’t aware of any example of a society which didn’t organise around some kind of money. As long as there are people, there will be exchange, and therefore a social need for money. Always.
And gold is money. That’s not to say it’s legal tender. You can’t use it to buy goods and services directly. But inhabitants of Norway can’t use Japanese Yen to buy things either. Does that mean Yen isn’t money? In effect, gold is everyone’s foreign exchange. It’s the original “hard currency.” So to say that gold has “no use” is like saying money has “no use.” Which isn’t correct. One might as well say language has “no use.” Both are fundamental to how societies organise and communicate. What people mean, we think, is that gold has no industrial use. But without money there would be no industry. Therefore, without money there would be no demand for oil, copper, zinc or the other raw materials many prefer on the grounds of “having use.” The monetary goes before the industrial, and so money has an “intrinsic value” to society which few other things do. Yet money is so ubiquitous that it is taken for granted. It is underappreciated and undervalued. Money is also the primary toy of today’s naïve interventionists. And being what they are, they will inevitably play with it until they break it.
Historically, people have understood money’s intrinsic value when they have been forced to, when alternative monies have been rendered unfit for purpose by persistent debasement. Negative real returns to cash, the inflation in various equity and credit markets, and investors’ “reaching for yield” suggest money’s transition from usable to unusable is already underway, if in a subtle and small way (for now). And if debasement to date has not dented debt ratios even slightly, the debasement of tomorrow will. Today, we see the intrinsic value of gold. And although we can’t know when, we think other will soon be forced to too.
So, that’s what the gold bugs mean when they say gold is money.
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