That’s a question I’m asked frequently. It’s usually followed by a comment along the lines of, “I don’t get it. It’s just a shiny rock. People dig it out of the ground and then put it back in the ground. What’s the point?”
I usually begin my reply by saying, “It’s not a rock, it’s a metal” and then go from there.
I have a lot of sympathy in these conversations. The fact that people don’t know much about gold today is not exactly their fault. The economics establishment of policymakers, academics and central bankers have closed ranks around the idea that gold is a taboo subject.
You can teach it in mining colleges, but don’t dare teach it in economics departments. If you have a kind word for gold in a monetary context, you are immediately labeled a “gold nut,” “gold bug,” “Neanderthal” or something worse. You are excluded from the conversation. Case closed.
It wasn’t always this way. I was a graduate student in international economics in 1973-1974. Many observers believe that the gold standard “ended” on August 15, 1971 when President Nixon suspended the redemption of dollars for gold by foreign trading partners. That’s not exactly what happened.