Avid readers may recall that I had to correct David Frum in regards to the gold standard and the Great Depression. Frum is once again attacking the gold standard, but this time with an ad hominem attack of its main proponent in the political arena, Rep. Ron Paul:
But [Rep. Paul’s] core supporters also thrill to his self-taught monetary views, which amount to a rejection of everything taught by modern economists from Alfred Marshall to Milton Friedman.
While I am certainly no advocate of the gold standard, I am quite leery of with regards to discretionary monetary policy. It is my view that the purpose of the central bank should be to limit inflation and I would prefer that this be done through an explicit inflation target. In this respect, my view is quite similar to Milton Friedman’s and thus I am quite puzzled at David Frum’s assertions. Rep. Paul’s main reason for advocating the gold standard, at least to my knowledge, is a strong disregard for discretionary monetary policy and the inflation and distortions that it can create. In this way, Paul is very similar to the likes of Milton Friedman, despite the fact that Friedman did not advocate the gold standard (for more on this, see Peter Boettke’s stellar post on Frum).
The essential point is that the debate is not so much about the gold standard as it is about monetary policy carried out by individuals and thus the potential for error. Many influential economists including Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises expressed strong doubts about the desirability of a central bank with discretionary power over monetary policy. Hayek’s Prices and Production explains in detail the distortions that can take place due to discretionary monetary policy. In addition, Friedman advocated monetary policy rules as favorable to individuals at a central bank. So perhaps such views aren’t as out of the mainstream as Frum would have you believe.