EC Plus Ça Change: A French Lesson In Monetary Debauchery

The economic conditions also brought on more crime and increased instances of bribery of government officials. Conditions were described by White as “the decay of a true sense of national pride.

December 1791

A new issue of 300 million more Assignats was ordered to be printed. With that decree, it was also ordered that a previous limit on the total amount to be printed be repudiated. By this point, it was estimated the value of their currency was cut in half and inflation was rampant.

April-July 1792

Another 600 million Assignats were printed. The presses rolled on and after a few more printings it was estimated a total of 3,500 million Assignats now existed. The issuances continued through 1792 and 1793.

“The consequences of these overissues now began to be more painfully evident to the people at large. Articles of common consumption became enormously dear and prices were constantly rising. Orators in the Legislative Assembly, clubs, local meetings, and elsewhere now endeavored to enlighten people by assigning every reason for this depreciation save the true one. They declaimed against the corruption of the ministry, the want of patriotism among the Moderates, the intrigues of the emigrant nobles, the hard-heartedness of the rich, the monopolizing spirit of the merchants, the perversity of the shopkeepers, —each and all of these as causes of the difficulty.”

French Revolution

Throughout 1792 and 1793, mobs were demanding necessities such as bread, sugar, and coffee. Peaceful demonstrations turned violent, and plundering of the local shops was commonplace. The French Revolution was born.

Money printing was not the sole cause of the revolution, but it certainly helped light the fuse. In all fairness, the French people were demanding the same liberties they helped America fight for. The idea of a Monarchy was fading, and those supporting democratic principles were leading the charge. In hindsight, money printing was a last-ditch effort to create prosperity and keep the Revolution at bay. Poverty and despair spread through France. Malnutrition and hunger due to lost employment and inflation fed the Revolution. In 1792 a republic was proclaimed, and in the following year, King Louis XVI was sent to the guillotines.

Conclusion

The story retold in this article echoes that of other nations before and after it. The language, promises, and ultimately the excuses used by the politicians are a familiar refrain. There is nothing new with money printing or “quantitative easing” as modern-day central bankers call it. Despite the passing of over 200 years and substantial development globally, plus ça change (the more that changes, the more it is the same thing).

Gold has a long history serving as a tool of wealth preservation. After numerous financial crises caused by the debasement of currencies, have modern-day economists and central bankers finally figured out how to print money with no consequences? Despite our wishes to the contrary, every action still has an equal and opposite reaction (consequence)The investment pundits who see nothing wrong with the actions of the world central banks regard holding gold as ridiculous. We consider an allocation to gold as a matter of prudence given what we have seen and expect to see from central bankers desperate to maintain the status quo. 

Hopefully, after reading this you will understand a little protection may go a long way in what may not be as clear cut an economic future as some would lead us to believe.

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