Trust in money is implicit, but when money is manipulated, trust is lost, leading to economic and social instability and human suffering. Such is the basis of an award-winning PBS documentary, “In Money We Trust?,” which was screened at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business Lincoln Center campus in a program presented in partnership with the Museum of American Finance on November 11.
Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, who also appears in the film, and Elizabeth Ames, the film’s writer and co-producer, participated in a conversation with the audience post-screening.
Going for the Gold… Standard
The documentary, which begins in ancient times and takes the audience through present day, explores how, even 2,500 years ago, the invention of money provided a shared measure of value that facilitated trust and trade between strangers. But the changing value of money destroys trust. As Forbes notes in the film, “When you change the value of money, you’re stealing property without due process of law, without a commercial transaction.”
The film also presents the rationale for the gold standard, demonstrating instances throughout history in which, as long as money was tied to the gold standard and the value of money remained stable, prosperity and social stability ensued. Alternatively, every time a government removed its currency from the gold standard and central banks resorted to stimulus and qualitative easing, people have suffered.
Some of the more egregious historical examples of money manipulation resulting in serious losses of trust followed by destructive consequences presented in the film include: the Great Inflation of the 1920s and 1930s in Germany; the Great Depression in the U.S. during the 1930s; the stagnation of the 1970s, which saw commodity prices such as oil rise significantly and the value of the dollar plunge, and more recently, the Great Recession of 2008, and the severe inflation impacting countries like Venezuela and in Africa.