In the best of all possible worlds dreamed of by the philosophers, we would dismember Leviathan. In the present, though, the task is to try, as best as we can, to limit its possible range of motion, the way we keep, say, a vicious guard-dog tied to a post so he can’t eat the neighbour’s cat or maul his kids. The notion that the gold standard provides solid material wherewithal to do just that is coming back into currency, and indeed I kick myself for not having thought of it earlier.
With others, I scoffed at the notion as a ridiculous pre-scientific superstition, something for irascible senior citizens and the guys who live off the grid in shacks vigilantly monitoring the sky, through the cross-hairs of a .50 cal. rifle scope, for the long-feared arrival of the black helicopters. I unthinkingly accepted all the politically correct anti-gold doxa: that the intrinsic value of gold is so much metaphysics and essentialism; that the only value of any currency is its purchasing power as determined by the play of market forces at any given time; that any form of currency is one token among others, and that therefore, a gold Sovereign is worth no more than monopoly money in the first analysis.
I repeated all this unaware that it was first articulated in the early 20th century (an enormous red flag in itself); that it was the strict ideological cognate of the moral relativism also articulated at the same time; and that both were articulated for the same reason- viz. that 20th century political project which, inflamed by the conceits of atheism, dreamed that Man could attain salvation in this life under his own power, and measured “progress” on the road to the temporal Eschaton with two odometers: the size and scope of the State apparatus; and the number of bodies strewn on the sides of that road by the State as it drives towards the end of History.
In order to expedite these ends, sociologists taught that all morals are historically variable, so many epiphenomena of class interests and “material forces”; and concluded not only that the idea of natural right is an obsolete metaphysical and essentialist delusion, but that natural rights are a pernicious man-made barrier (“bourgeois ideology”) to “progress”. In like fashion, and for the same reasons, economists scorned gold and asserted, in the shade of the sociological jurisprudence of unlimited State police power, an unlimited capacity on the part of the State to print paper money, the better to expedite the practical construction of the engines of mass homicide whose legitimacy had already been guaranteed by sociology.
Thus, in this Parliament of the technocrats, sociology prescribed, and economics executed. Leviathan was unchained from the twin fetters of natural right and natural worth. It was regressed to the infantile stage of wish-fulfillment, but with the following difference. The infant who cannot distinguish fantasy from reality soon finds the immediate gratification of the wish limited by the reality principle. Leviathan, on the other hand, was by fiat money released from the reality principle it was hitherto bounded by. Like the infant, it was no longer able to distinguish between fantasy and reality- but, unlike the infant, Leviathan could immediately gratify the wishes given in its fantasy-life, or at least try to.
We all know where that went- and where it continues to go. And it isn’t Utopia. It’s time to put the beast back in its chains.