The Next De Gaulle
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Our editorial yesterday in respect of Charles De Gaulle raised the question of whether someone could be found today who could talk about the monetary crisis with the sense and gravitas the leader of Free France brought to the monetary crisis that came into view in the mid-1960s. De Gaulle himself is now gone, of course, having died in 1970. He had his faults and had become, in many ways, an irritant to America. But his late career call for a return to a system of sound money that would — by virtue of being based on gold — hold all countries to the same standard is now echoing across the decades. And it turns out there is an heir to the economist who emboldened the French president to make his famous declaration.
The economist was Jacques Rueff, who helped save the Fifth Republic by guiding De Gaulle to establish the convertibility of the French franc. His agitation for a return to the gold standard in the late 1950s and 1960s was based on his comprehension that holding dollars as a reserve currency was a recipe for global inflation. It was on his advice that De Gaulle put through the polices that made the franc convertible and balanced the budget and turned France, in the decade after 1959, into the fastest growing economy in the developed world. Rueff himself died in 1978 at the age of 82. The question is whether his formula could be used by America.
Well, the heir to Rueff turns out to be actively pursuing his ideas right here in America now, as a new crisis swells up around us. This is Lewis Lehrman, a New York businessman and student of monetary affairs who in 1982 came within a whisker of being elected governor of New York and is now working full time on a return to the gold standard. For a candidate wanting to achieve in America the kind of turnaround that De Gaulle achieved at France, Mr. Lehrman would be the man to call.
We first started covering Mr. Lehrman in 1981, when he was on the United States Gold Commission that had been convened by President Reagan at the urging of Senator Jesse Helms. Congressional input ensured that the commission was stacked against advocates of sound money. Its most notable achievement was a famous dissent, written by Congressman Ron Paul and Mr. Lehrman and later republished as a book called “The Case for Gold.” Later Mr. Lehrman established a prize, the Prix Rueff, to reward those who best carried on in the spirit of Rueff.
An institute established by Mr. Lehrman is now issuing a Web site, thegoldstandardnow.org, to serve as a bulletin board for those who reckon a return to sound money will be a precondition to sustained growth in America’s and the world’s economy. In recent months he has written a number of important op-ed articles for the Wall Street Journal. It strikes us that for Mr. Perry, who has so pointedly marked the monetary issue, or any other candidate who wants, like De Gaulle, to craft a serious strategy around the monetary issue, Mr. Lehrman has the potential to be a game-changing figure. Our impression is that he is not wedded to any one candidate but rather to the principle of sound money and the convertibility of the dollar into gold.
His central point is that monetary policy is the most important issue today — more important than, say, the debt ceiling and more important, even, than the deficit, as he puts it in a recent video on thegoldstandardnow.org. He calls it more important than regulation, because it is the key to long-term savings and long-term investment, thus to long-term economic growth and full employment. He would ask candidates: “What is the monetary policy that will get us out of the age of inflation, which the paper-dollar standard has put us on now for as much as two generations?” He has emerged as the tribune for the idea that the right answer to that question is gold convertibility and for the practical programs for moving forward to the time-tested standard that could make America the fastest growing developed economy in the decades ahead.