William Luther and Alexander William Salter, Associate Professors of Economics at Florida Atlantic University and the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, respectively, argue that there are lessons to be learned from the days when the dollar was explicitly backed by gold. They’re right as far as they go, but they hang their hats on the premise that our current dollar—and only our current dollar—is a fiat currency.
“As far as they go” is this: there are lessons regarding fiscal discipline that must be learned and relearned, and relearned again. The learning is a generational matter as our population trends wealthier in our economy’s fits and starts of growth.
Cue William Jennings Bryan and his cross of gold, I say.
Separately, what Luther and Salter missed is that gold/gold-backed currencies are every bit as fiat and arbitrary as are Luther’s and Salter’s fiat dollars. Governments set the price of their currency, regardless of their (metals) backing or lack, and they do so for political reasons at least as much as they do for economic reasons.
For this, we need look no further than FDR’s confiscation of everyone’s gold private property and the prompt, sharp change (by 75%!) he made in his fiat-determined value of that gold right after he’d paid just compensation for what he seized.