Getting Back to the Gold Standard

Jim Grant’s rise to power may be delayed.

The legendary Wall Street writer, publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, has been mentioned by two of the rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. Newt Gingrich said if elected president, he’d name Grant to help run a commission looking at a possible return to the gold standard. And Ron Paul said, if elected president, he’d go all-in and name Grant — one of Wall Street’s best-known gold bugs — as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve.

As Paul wants to abolish the Fed, it would doubtless be a temporary post. But Grant says he found the offer — which came out of the blue — very flattering.

Alas, both men are trailing in the race to front-runner Mitt Romney. “Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from Mr. Romney yet,” joked Grant when I called on him in his offices down on Wall Street. “I’m sitting by the phone, I’m ready.”

He may have to wait some time. Romney, a conventional Wall Street figure, is unlikely to tap him anytime soon.

Jim Grant is a paradox: A legendary, well-established figure on Wall Street who is not part of the Wall Street “establishment.” He is a raging contrarian. A writer from a more elegant age, Grant is also a scathing critic of “too big to fail” banks and the whole Wall Street racket — with its privatized profits and socialized losses.

The latest edition of his Interest Rate Observer carries a cartoon on the front cover, in which a banker is bemoaning his fate to a bartender: “Just one more unconscionable bonus,” he is saying over his beer, “and I would’ve been golden.”

Grant is an old-school conservative, but the cartoon could have appeared without any change in The Nation: It’s a sign of how the principled right and the principled left have often found some common cause in their critique of the amoral, expedient financial “elite.”

Entering Grant’s offices is like a step back in time. There are books and actual papers piled high on his desk. I could spy neither an iPad nor an iPhone. Grant, now in his 60s, wears bow ties and horn-rimmed glasses. He was known for many years as a “perma-bear” on the Street, and there is a giant stuffed bear by the door.

Read Full Article