David Galland notes:
Monetary scholar Edwin Vieira … pointed out that every 30 to 40 years the reigning monetary system fails and has to be retooled. The last time around for the U.S. was in 1971, when Nixon cancelled the convertibility of dollars into gold. Remarkably, the world bought into the unbacked dollar as its reserve currency, but only because that was the path of least resistance. But here we are 40 years later, and it is clear to anyone paying attention that the monetary system is irretrievably broken and will fail.
What will replace it is still unclear, but I suspect that when the stuff really hits the fan and inflation rages the government will try the approach taken by the Germans to end their hyperinflation back in the 1920s, coming up with the equivalent of the Rentenmark – a dollar that is loosely linked to some basket of commodities and financial instruments. It won’t be convertible, because it would be impossible for bank tellers to exchange your dollar for a cup of oil, and a coupon off of a bond, and a chip of gold, or whatever makes up the basket – but it might restore some semblance of confidence in the currency. That’s one option. Another is that some government decides to make its currency convertible into precious metals; but that will only happen when all other less fiscally restraining systems have been floated and failed. Simply, at this point we can’t know what will replace the current monetary system, or when. All we can know is that the status quo cannot and so will not survive this crisis.
Regardless, between now and the point in time where the Fed throws in the towel on today’s fiat monetary system, you would have to be naïve in the extreme not to expect volatility, uncertainty, and wholesale financial dislocations.
Chris Mack writes:
According to a study of 775 fiat currencies by DollarDaze.org, there is no historical precedence for a fiat currency that has succeeded in holding its value. Twenty percent failed through hyperinflation, 21% were destroyed by war, 12% destroyed by independence, 24% were monetarily reformed, and 23% are still in circulation approaching one of the other outcomes.
The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is 27 years, with the shortest life span being one month. Founded in 1694, the British pound Sterling is the oldest fiat currency in existence. At a ripe old age of 317 years it must be considered a highly successful fiat currency. However, success is relative. The British pound was defined as 12 ounces of silver, so it’s worth less than 1/200 or 0.5% of its original value. In other words, the most successful long standing currency in existence has lost 99.5% of its value.
Given the undeniable track record of currencies, it is clear that on a long enough timeline the survival rate of all fiat currencies drops to zero.
And Jeff Clark points out:
History has a message for us: No fiat currency has lasted forever. Eventually, they all fail.
BMG BullionBars recently published a poster featuring pictures of numerous currencies that have gone bust. Some got there quickly, while others took a century or more. Regardless of how long it took, though, the seductive temptations allowed under a fiat monetary system eventually caught up with these governments, and their currencies went poof!
You might suspect this happened only to third world countries. You’d be wrong. There was no discrimination as to the size or perceived stability of a nation’s economy; if the leaders abused their currency, the country paid the price.
As you scroll through the currencies below, you’ll see some long-ago casualties. What’s shocking, though, is how many have occurred in our lifetime. You might count how many currencies have failed since you’ve been born.
So what’s the one word for the “thousand pictures” below? Worthless.
Yugoslavia – 10 billion dinar, 1993
Zaire – 5 million zaires, 1992
Venezuela – 10,000 bolívares, 2002
Ukraine – 10,000 karbovantsiv, 1995
Turkey – 5 million lira, 1997
Russia – 10,000 rubles, 1992
Romania – 50,000 lei, 2001
Central Bank of China – 10,000 CGU, 1947
Peru – 100,000 intis, 1989
Nicaragua – 10 million córdobas, 1990
Hungary – 10 million pengo, 1945
Greece – 25,000 drachmas, 1943
Germany – 1 billion mark, 1923
Georgia – 1 million laris, 1994
France – 5 livres, 1793
Chile – 10,000 pesos, 1975
Brazil – 500 cruzeiros reais, 1993
Bosnia – 100 million dinar, 1993
Bolivia – 5 million pesos bolivianos, 1985
Belarus – 100,000 rubles, 1996
Argentina – 10,000 pesos argentinos, 1985
Angola – 500,000 kwanzas reajustados, 1995
Zimbabwe – 100 trillion dollars, 2006
Disclaimer: I don’t know Chris Mack or DollarDaze, and so can’t vouch for their figures. However, the general concept is correct.