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No way we’re switching to asset-based currencies like gold

Jul 28, 2023


After Russia invaded Ukraine and Western sanctions froze the country’s foreign exchange reserves, President Putin initiated a significant increase in Russia’s gold holdings. This move has led to a growing number of other countries to follow suit, fueled by declining trust in the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan wonders what this means for analysts who support the switch to an asset-backed currency. He believes in the need to look at history because every previous instance of using an asset-backed currency, like gold, has “resulted in collapse.”

Excerpted from Peter’s July 27 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

After today’s video, all the leprechauns out there might be mad because we’re talking about GOLD. And unfortunately, there’s no treasure at the end of the rainbow this time…

At the start of the Ukraine war, many of the world’s advanced central banks placed sanctions and embargoes on Russian financial assets. As Putin tries to repatriate gold reserves from these hubs worldwide, what does this mean for the leprechauns who think we should switch to an asset-backed currency?

If you know your history, the answer is obvious. Every time we’ve used an asset-backed currency, it’s resulted in collapse. There’s just no asset, especially not gold, that can keep up with economic growth and expansion around the world. And when the currency becomes a brake on economic activity, you end up with a sharp crack in the system; which leads to depression and often state collapse.

You can argue that fiat currencies aren’t perfect, but don’t say an asset-backed currency would be better. This isn’t financial advice, but if gold continues to be pulled from these hubs, its use case will only get smaller and smaller.

Everybody, Peter Zein here coming to you from the saddle between Mount James and mount Bancroft, that’s Lake Oman, just below me. I’m at about 12,500 feet here. Today we’re going to talk about other high minded issues such as gold. Now one of the things that we saw last year with the beginning of the Ukraine war is that most of the world’s more advanced central banks started putting massive sanctions on that included the embargo of Russian financial assets held abroad, whether it was foreign currency or gold reserves themselves. Now, the way the currency markets normally work with there are a number of nodes, places like Tokyo and London in New York, where trillions of dollars of currency are exchanged every single day. And by locating these things, in these hubs, everything becomes a lot more efficient, especially when you’re talking about gold, it’s traditionally traded electronically. And the stuff is just kind of held in a big vault. There are pluses and minuses to that the pluses it means it can go anywhere at any time, and interact with any one kind of like digital currency in general, or your ability to move money around via your bank account without actually going in and getting physical cash to hand someone. The downside, of course, is that, well, it’s in New York, or London or Tokyo. And if New York or London or Tokyo decide that you’re a bad, bad person, then all of a sudden, they can say, You know what, this isn’t moving anywhere. Not today, not ever, we’re just going to close the vaults, and your stuff is stuck. Because of that a lot of central banks in the world not among the countries that are doing the sanctions, but everybody else had been tried to physically repatriate their gold from those hubs back home. Now, there’s nothing to stop them from doing this. The question is whether or not there’s any utility in it, because if their goal is physically at home, digital aspect of doing transfer is much weaker, unless you can find another hub. And at the moment, the only theoretical and emphasis on the word theoretical, large scale place for that would maybe be the United Arab Emirates. UAE just doesn’t have the experience right now, or the credibility to be that sort of hub. And remember, any sort of secondary hub is not going to be using gold from the United States, or Japan, or Canada or Italy or anyone in the European Union, any of the first world. So you’re talking about something like 80% of global currency exchange, all of a sudden, there’s not going to be using this new hub, it all makes it very hard to get it going in the first place anyway. For other people, non central banks, people who are using gold or other currencies, as a matter of course, I wouldn’t get too excited about the idea of gold coming back. As countries are looking for options that don’t use the hubs and don’t use the US dollar and don’t use the euro, or the yen or the bout, you got to think about why we have a currency system the way we do. Now, back in the battle days. Before 1970. We did use it gold back asset backed currencies. And every time every single time we ever had one it ended and collapse is one of the things that you generate whenever you have trade whenever you have economic activity is you have to have some means of exchanging it that preferably is not barter. And usually, historically speaking, we have used aspect asset backed currencies for that. But as growth picks up as economic activity picks up, you need more and more and more and more and more of the currency until eventually you gobble up everything that is available. And when that happens, the currency itself starts to become a source of massive inflation, independent of the normal issues of supply and demand and logistics of labor capital. With the currency itself becomes a break on economic activity, you get a sharp crack in the system, usually a depression and oftentimes state collapse. This has happened with every single asset backed currency throughout human history. Now, you can make the argument that the Fiat age where countries like the United States government just say, you know, this is what the dollar is worth, and we’ll maintain it. Or you can say that that is a flawed system, that is fine, but it is by far better than all the other systems. Because the US Federal Reserve, our monetary authority, has the ability to regulate the supply of the currency on a second by second basis. So if there’s strong economic growth from the 1990s, until now, the US economy expands by a factor of three, that there’s no problem for the Federal Reserve to triple the volume of the currency that is available for use. You can’t do that with gold. There’s another problem of course of daily currency daily global currency exchange is about four or 5 trillion US equivalent. The US economy is now 20. A trillion dollars on global merchandise trade is over $25 trillion. Ultimate the gold that the human race has in mind, in total, in the last 6000 years of history, certainly about Tinto and elite Got a few single digit percentages about is available for use in any given day, because most of the world’s goals and things like wedding bands and museum exhibits and semiconductors. So not only theoretically is there not enough there, even if it was all pooled somehow, if we did go back as some sort of gold based system, you wouldn’t have a crushing impact on economic growth because you would have hyperinflation triggered by the currency itself. And this is one of those things that most of those people who think that we should move on to something beyond the dollar tend to miss or think that we need to go back to a asset backed system tend to miss the human race in its current position with over 8 billion people and a combined global GDP of pushing $100 trillion and not function without fiat currency. Oh, yeah. So it was climbing. I thought of one more thing. Oh, and that’s icebound Blake behind me. I know a lot of you are going to ask you’re going to translate into financial advice. Anyway, I don’t give financial advice. Let me start by saying that but number two, I’m not necessarily saying that you shouldn’t invest in gold. I mean, you do it for your own reasons. I would just point out that with many of the world’s secondary central banks, physically repatriating their gold, it is being removed from currency exchanges is becoming a non factor, not note, no movement up no movement down. They are basically repudiating the open exchange system that underpins most financially liquid markets. Now, does that mean that gold has no use? Of course not, in addition to its industrial uses, and its jewelry uses how it can still be used as a method of exchange. But by removing gold from the digital system, it means you have to do so physically. So one of the ways that the Russians, for example, are getting around the sanctions regime is to physically load gold up into a plane and fly it to a country that they’re buying stuff from. That is neither bullish no or bearish for gold, because it never sees the light of day. It never gets exchanged in a traditional sense that can push the market up or down. So does that make the case from old moralized viable? I’d say neither. It just makes it smaller. All right, I’m done for real bye

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