The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession

By Peter L. Bernstein | Go to book overview

Foreword

What could be timelier than a new release of Peter Bernstein’s authoritative book The Power of Gold? Bernstein wrote at the turn of the century—only a decade ago, but what a contrast from today in the world of business and finance. Economic growth in the economically developed world had been sustained for a decade. Reasonable price stability had been achieved. Huge gains in the world’s stock markets exceeded past experience.

Almost everywhere, central bankers were esteemed and trusted. Central bank independence came to be taken as the indispensable guarantor of stability. The mood was epitomized by the creation of a brandnew central bank to manage the European common currency, itself a key initiative toward closer European union. With its independence from the sovereign states of the “Eurozone” embodied in a solemn treaty, the new central bank reached a virtually unprecedented state, freed of direct accountability to a political government.

For decades, no central bank or government had maintained convertibility of its currencies into gold. For the most part, major currencies were “floated” in exchange markets. In one of Bernstein’s apt phrases, gold had been “emasculated.” With its enduring luster, its malleability, its resistance to wear and corrosion, it could remain useful for adornment and jewelry and to a limited exchange as a tiny component of some electronic devices. Yet it had been shorn of monetary significance. In the 1990s, central banks, the custodians of national financial

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