Ralph Benko

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to include an argument over opportunity versus equality. The American economy has been stagnant for a decade. Income for working men has been stagnant (or even contracting) for 40 years. Why?

40 years ago is when America started abdicating its classical high-growth monetary policy, the gold standard. We abandoned good money to chase after a chimerical improvement of easy money — ostensibly to promote job growth. But as 40 years of wage stagnation has shown, easy money has failed.

Now the GOP, which was complicit in the abdication of a good money policy, is beginning to change its tune. Both in Congress and in the presidential race monetary policy is shaping up as a potentially important political battleground. Since a good monetary policy is a crucial element of growth, thus job creation, a fight over good money could decide elections.

With the fizzling out of Occupy Wall Street there has been a dying down of the rhetoric about income inequality. Class warfare doesn’t resonate strongly in America. As Pew’s Andrew Kohut wrote last January in the New York Times,

“…while Americans are hearing more and more about class conflict, there is little indication that they are increasingly divided along these lines. People don’t necessarily want to take money from the wealthy; they just want a better chance to get rich themselves. They care about policies that give everyone a fair shot — a distinction that candidates in both parties should understand as they head into the 2012 campaigns.

“While a December Gallup poll found few respondents wanting the government to attempt to reduce the income gap between rich and poor, 70 percent said it was important for the government to increase opportunities for people to get ahead. What the public wants is not a war on the rich but more policies that promote opportunity.”

Voters are eager for “policies that promote opportunity.” America is very much dedicated both to equality and to the pursuit of happiness. Toqueville observed in Democracy In America Volume I, Part 1, chapter 3:

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.