You said: Even on the gold standard, government ran deficits. That's how the bond market was invented, as a way around the physical limitations of the gold standard.
Exactly. The gold standard’s main claim to fame (when speaking of a governments obligation to create and maintain an honest, dependable money supply) is to thwart the tendencies of govt to debase and dilute the integrity of that money.
You said: Limiting new money creation to the rate of new discoveries of gold & silver is, frankly, absurd.
With all due respect, this statement itself is absurd. Tell me, is there any reason at all to think that a currency based on precious metals is tied, physically, to the amount of metals? If absolutely no gold was discovered after returning to a gold standard and the economic activity of the nation expanded (more goods; cheaper goods; etc), why wouldn’t the value of the gold simply increase? Congress has the constitutional power to set the value of gold in relation to the currency outstanding. In this scenario, what used to cost $10 (in gold) now only requires $8 (in re-valued gold). True, the person who bought whatever at $10, now finds that what he paid for is, in terms of the new value, overpriced, but this situation occurs even with fiat money. The computer I bought 2 years ago now sells for half of what it used to. Unfortunately, with the govt’s ability to inflate, ad-infintum, the currency supply of paper currency, most goods and services have increased in dollar-based price (I believe the dollar itself has lost over 94% of its purchasing power just within the last 25 years; I’ll have to check the exact statistic and will post it as soon as I do).
You said: Why should the spending habits of the owners of gold & silver mines dictate the terms of the size of the monetary base?
What? The ‘spending habits of the owners of gold and silver mines?’. Are you serious? First of all, when the govt issues currency based on a gold (or silver standard), they would only be allowed to issue these notes in relation to the amount of metal holdings they currently had on hand (stored in Fort Knox?) NOT the amount of metals circulating in private hands. Secondly, as stated above, the actual physical amount of precious metals does NOT dictate it’s value (unless, of course, someone figures out how to turn sand into gold and the very abundance of the metal would now make it an unsuitable commodity for using as money).
You said: Money is just a medium of exchange.
I agree with this completely. So, money is NOT wealth. Wealth is productivity. When more goods and services are produced the wealth of the nation goes up. An honest money supply exists solely to facilitate the exchange of these goods and services in an equitable fashion. And what commodity intrinsically makes a good money supply? Consider these criteria:
It must be rare.
It must be durable.
It must be divisible.
It must maintain a store of value over long periods of time.
When any commodity, whatever it might be, meets these criteria, it can be used as basis for a stable money supply. Over history, what commodity has been found that fulfills all of these traits?
Many other types of commodities have been used throughout history as money. Tobacco, seashells, cattle, etc. Each of these commodities failed, in the long run, to continue on as a stable form of money. Tobacco rots, seashells were not rare enough, cattle was not easily divisible, and so on. Over the history of human economics, people realized that precious metals met all the base criteria for a stable and effective money supply. Honest govts simply recognized this fact and used precious metals as a universally accepted commodity for money. And, tellingly, this acceptance of precious metals as money continues on to this very day.
You said: Under a gold standard, the only way to expand the money supply is to debase the value of currency.
Only in relation to the value of the gold backing it up. As stated earlier, the value of the gold increases; another way is if more gold is mined and processed (but not too much as the rarity of gold is one of its primary virtues). Less (redeemable) currency buys more gold; the wealth of the nation has increased because this reflects an increase in productivity.
You said: The problem is, under a gold standard, people get wise to the scheme and start demanding gold for their dollars. When government devalues the currency with respect to a metal backing it, those left holding currency are on the short end of the stick. And when there is a run on the gold window....you end up with fiscal constraints...that limit the amount of new money growth...and thus threaten the government's and private sector's ability to pay debts.
Hmmm. “Wise to the scheme…”. Your wording here implies some sort of con game is being perpetrated. In actuality, there’s honesty in these types of transactions. Since paper currency (the ‘dollars’ you talk about) are really just ‘money substitutes’, a promise to pay the real money; the real money is the gold and silver), how is redeeming your currency anything more than demanding payment for what is yours? As long as the govt honors its obligation to redeem the dollars in gold (and each and every dollar issued should have gold backing it up), how is this a ‘scheme’?
PS: I very much appreciated your message; My oh my: a True Capitalist! You know, I truly believe that you are; just your willingness to carry on an intelligent and thoughtful debate shows you are different than most progressives who refuse to give any reflective thought whatsoever on their beliefs. I have always felt that most people (except those with true agendas) armed with the truth and facts would fall somewhere much closer within the 'libertarian' mindset than they would initially believe. There are always minor differences in legal thought, of course (especially in the areas of vice (drugs, prostitution, etc), but on a whole, I believe we are all much closer than our true enemies think (and I truly believe that fact scares them so they need us to fight amongst ourselves). Later, perhaps, we can talk about 'socialism' and I'll have a chance to explain why I think it's a shiny bauble filled with poison.