How the Gold Standard Can Get You Drunk: The Ticker

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By Max Berley

Here's a fun game to liven up tonight's debate of Republican presidential hopefuls in South Carolina: Down a shot of some potent beverage each time one of the candidates mentions the need to return to the gold standard.

A word of warning: You might not make it through the evening.

That's because it's likely you won't just hear Representative Ron Paul of Texas take a ride on his hobby horse; Newt Gingrich may get in on the act, too. At a foreign policy forum in the Palmetto State on Jan. 17, , the former House speaker said he was in favor of a "commission on gold to look at the whole concept of how do we get back to hard money."

After a few drinks, Paul and Gingrich might even make the idea of reviving an economic policy that fell out of favor decades ago sound pretty good. We urge you to sleep it off and reexamine their arguments in the cold light of day.

Here's something that can help you make up your mind. Our partners over at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business put the following proposition to a panel of 40 of America's top economists: "If the U.S. replaced its discretionary monetary policy regime with a gold standard, defining a 'dollar' as a specific number of ounces of gold, the price-stability and employment outcomes would be better for the average American."

Every single expert either disagrees or strongly disagrees with the idea of restoring the gold standard. And before you reject this finding as just another example of Establishment groupthink, consider this: The panel includes Republicans, Democrats, independents, Nobel laureates, and top economic advisers to presidents of both parties. They provide their reasons and backup research.

Some of them appear to be open to exploring other unorthodox ideas. Richard Thaler, a professor at Booth perhaps best known for his work with Cass Sunstein in behavioral economics, was inspired to ask this:  "Why tie to gold? Why not 1982 Bordeaux?"

Perhaps that will come up in the next debate.

(Max Berley is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Jan/20/2012 01:15 GMT