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Part Four: Monetary Reconstruction > Chapter 22. Contemporary Currency Systems

1. The Inflexible Gold Standard

The mark of all the varieties of the gold standard and the gold-exchange standard as they existed on the eve of World War I was the gold parity of the country's monetary unit, precisely determined by a duly promulgated law. It was understood that this parity would never be changed. In virtue of the parity law the unit of the national currency system was practically a definite quantity of the metal gold. It was of no consequence whether or not banknotes had been endowed with legal-tender power. They were redeemable in gold, and the central banks really did redeem them fully on demand.

The difference between the standard that was later called the orthodox or the classical gold standard and the gold-exchange standard was a difference of degree. Under the former there were gold coins in the cash holdings of the individual citizens and firms and they were—together with banknotes, checks, and fractional coins—employed in business transactions. Under the gold-exchange standard no gold was used in transacting domestic business. But the central bank sold gold bullion and foreign exchange against domestic currency at rates that did not exceed the legal parity by more than the gold margin would be under the classical gold standard. Thus the countries under the gold-exchange standard were no less integrated into the system of the international gold standard than those under the classical gold standard.