Unfortunately, the move to fiat currency and the establishment of the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency has made the goals of full employment and low inflation unattainable. Since the U.S. left the gold standard, our unemployment rates have bounced violently up and down. In the same time period, inflation more than doubled.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, courtesy of the American Principles Project’s Charles Kadlec writing in The Wall Street Journal.
Between 1947 and 1967, when the U.S. first started moving away from the gold standard, the unemployment rate averaged 4.7 percent and never spiked higher than 7 percent. Between 1971 and 2009, meanwhile, the unemployment rate averaged 6.2 percent (roughly one-third higher), and unemployment has spiked to averages of 8.5 percent in 1975, 9.7 percent in 1982, and 9.5 percent during the most recent economic downturn.
What about inflation? When money is tied to gold, it’s difficult for inflation to run amok. Between 1947 and 1967, inflation averaged 1.9 percent per year and interest rates on bonds remained stable. But inflation, just like unemployment rates, has spiked since we left the gold standard. The consumer price index increased an average of 4.4 percentage points every year between 1967 and 2009. And interest rates on corporate bonds are way up.
Inflation occurs because the government can print money in higher and higher volumes. Why worry about higher inflation? Because inflation means you can’t buy as much “stuff” as you used to with the same amount of money. A dollar today is worth about one-sixth of what a dollar was worth forty years ago.