Gold versus paper currencies in the aftermath of war

To understand the value of gold as a currency with intrinsic value versus paper currencies which have only derivative value, it is perhaps helpful to consider what happens when a war comes to a conclusion.  The victors, if they ask for tribute or war reparations, will only accept gold.  Consider that throughout history, when conquerors overtook cities, they would strip them of gold and silver and other precious real goods, such as when Alaric sacked Rome in 410.  They didn’t say, “Oh please, would you print some images of the Emperor and give them to us.”  Instead, the barbarians forcefully took away the intrinsic wealth of the city.

In our more recent past, we see that the United States has been able to force its paper currency on the losers of wars.  At the end of the Civil War, the Confederate dollar became worthless paper.  The loser cannot make the winner accept its paper.  Then, at the end of World War II, the US was able to begin to impose its currency on the rest of the world, until it became the world’s reserve currency.  Originally the US dollar was a derivative for gold; but  afterwards, Nixon took it off the gold standard, and it became a purely fiat currency.  But had the United States not won World War II, we’d be speaking German and Japanese and Yen and Marks would have become the world’s reserve currencies.

At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles imposed war reparations upon Germany, mind you not in the paper currency of the Weimar Republic, the Deutsche Mark, which became so much wallpaper in a few years, as it began to fill the wheel barrows of the country.  No, the treaty required that the Germans pay back their debt in gold.  Funny, isn’t it?  How is it that the loser of a war can impose upon the winner the acceptance of a metal which has been in a 6000 year bubble?

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