Grab your wallet and stare closely at the money. What's it worth? It's worth whatever it will buy. But can you imagine a time when someone looks at your cash and really doesn't want it, because it "isn't worth the paper it's printed on"? That's what happens when a country "prints," or creates, too much money. It loses value. The official name for that process is inflation. What's the alternative to paper? Gold. It's been the "hedge" against inflation ever since paper money was first created by governments. In recent weeks, the U.S. government has created hundreds of billions of new dollar credit -- a faster process than the printing presses -- to offset the financial crisis of asset values being destroyed. Suddenly the dollar is backed not by gold, or even the "full faith and credit" of the United States, but by IOUs from banks, corporate commercial paper that can't be sold elsewhere, by insurance company assets, by questionable mortgages, and soon by swaps of currency from Mexico and Brazil. Worries about all this money creation are inspiring a growing interest in gold. Gold prices are well below their highs of earlier this year, when gold briefly traded over $1,000 a troy ounce, backed off and then traded over $900 an ounce in early October. In just the past week, gold bullion traded below $700 an ounce. On Wednesday, gold futures for December rose 1.8% in New York trading to $754. In the global battle between deflation (represented by falling asset values) and inflation (represented by central bank liquidity creation), gold has fluctuated wildly. It's a very speculative market.