Chatham House Report

Project: Global Economy and Finance Department

Chatham House Gold Taskforce

To assess what contribution, if any, gold could make to the current international monetary system in the wake of the global financial crisis, Chatham House set up a global Taskforce of experts in 2011.

The Taskforce explored the advantages and disadvantages of reintroducing gold in the system and identified a number of possible scenarios for reform. 

Key findings include:

  • For gold to play a more formal role in the international monetary system, it would be imperative that it neither hinders the system's performance nor creates unacceptable constraints on national economic policies;
  • Although the discipline a gold standard imposes on monetary policy may have been helpful in limiting the reckless banking and excessive debt accumulation of the past decade, the rigidity of a fixed price for gold would likely have been a serious handicap with the onset of the financial crisis when a much more flexible monetary response was required;
  • There is no clear-cut role for gold as a policy indicator. The historical behaviour of the gold price does not provide a particularly good indicator for either monetary or fiscal policy. In fact, since the financial crisis, the rise in the gold price has indicated the need for tighter policies which, if implemented, could have been deeply damaging;
  • Gold can serve as a hedge against declining values of key fiat currencies, and can also be useful for central banks, but its role as a hedge is not cost free. Indeed, a major downside of holding gold is that its price can be extremely volatile. Also, it generates no yield, other than capital gains which are only realised when it is sold. Gold, therefore, can form part of a portfolio of assets that spreads valuation risk, but on the other hand, it is not very effective as a sole reserve asset.