This is a freely edited version of an article by the monetary economist Walter E. Spahr (1891-1970), Head, Department of Economics, New York University, that appeared in the quarterly review Modern Age, Summer, 1960
An instrumentality of human freedom
Of all institutions the gold standard occupies a paramount position as an instrumentality of human freedom, private property, private enterprise, and responsible government. The nature of the gold standard should reveal something as to why it is a necessary and natural companion of human freedom.
After specifying the standard gold coin and opening the Mint to its free and un-limited coinage on private account, the government must stand aside and let the gold standard perform its functions in accordance with the desires of the people. The right to private property in gold is established and respected. The government shall not interfere with the hoarding, importing or exporting of gold, or with the redemption of non-gold currency into standard gold coin by the banks. An individual may put none, little, much, or all of his property into gold. He may convert all of his property into gold and ship it out of the country without hindrance from the government.
Checkrein on the government and banks
If a person living under a degree of freedom inherent in a gold standard is disturbed by, or disapproves of, the policies of his government or the practices of banks, he may protect his property by presenting non-gold currency for redemption. If a sufficient number of people do this, then the government and the banks are forced to respect the fears or disapproval of the citizens. The government and the banks are thus placed in a position in which they must be careful not to disturb unduly, or to incur the disapproval of, people with property to protect.
Thus do a people with a gold standard at their disposal have the power to keep a checkrein on the fiscal policies of their government. Thus do they force the banks not to pursue reckless credit practices. Thus do they obtain and maintain a responsible government and a responsible banking system.
The people may utilize that power wisely or unwisely; but it is a power they must have if they are to be able to protect themselves from improper government encroachment or tyranny, and against irresponsible banking. (Continue to original article)