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Gold Standard? Don't Hold Your Breath

Stocks in this article: GLD

NEW YORK ( TheGoldAndOilGuy.com) -- For the first time in over 30 years, talk of a return to the gold standard has become part of mainstream politics in the U.S. It became part of the official Republican policy at the recent Republican convention and the party supports the creation of a new commission to look at reestablishing the link between gold and the U.S. dollar. No doubt that plank was added to soothe supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

However, gold bugs holding gold bullion or even those holding gold ETFs such as the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) shouldn't hold their breath in anticipation of the gold standard returning. There was a similar commission -- the Gold Commission -- set up in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. After a lot of "commissioning," the decision was made to go with the status quo of using fiat Federal Reserve dollars.

Any commission set up under the current president would likely come to the same conclusion. There are simply too many practical obstacles to return to a full-fledged gold standard. Even pro-gold advocates including the World Gold Council and the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) don't see a gold standard returning.

The key problem would be at what price in gold would the U.S. peg its currency. Great Britain returned to the gold standard in 1925, after going off it in 1914, at the 1914 peg price. This was a mistake made by Winston Churchill (he called it the biggest he ever made) since it basically ignored the vast inflation in the British pound in those intervening years. The result was a vast overvaluation of the pound and deflation and high unemployment soon followed.

What price would a new Gold Commission set as the "correct" price of the U.S. dollar vs. gold? $1,000? $2,000? $5,000? The answer is that there is no "correct" price. Whatever price is set will eventually be tested by the financial markets and fail much as the pegged currencies system failed. So there will be no return to the gold standard.

But that does not mean there will not be a "back-door" gold standard. The move to such as a system is already under way as central banks all over the world are rebuilding their stockpiles of gold. After two decades of heavy selling, central banks became net buyers of gold in 2010 and the momentum has built since. Gold will likely end up being used as "good" collateral by global central banks, as opposed to the shaky collateral sovereign bonds are turning into.

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