NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Ron Paul was not in attendance at an Intercollegiate Studies Institute dinner Thursday night in Manhattan, but the Texas congressman would have drawn a hero’s welcome.
The Republican presidential contender’s name was repeatedly cited by speakers and audience members at the annual event that has in years past featured former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Adored by so-called gold bugs, James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, a weekly newsletter, was the keynote speaker at the ISI’s sixth annual dinner for Western Civilization at the Harvard Club in New York.
“Banks ought not to be wards of the state,” said Grant, who echoed Paul in calling for a return to the gold standard, the system ended by President Richard Nixon in 1971 whereby the U.S. currency would be convertible into a certain weight unit of bullion.
While sympathetic, some of the group’s up-and-coming members had more pragmatic takes.
As ISS member Charles Johnson, a recent graduate from Claremont McKenna College sees it, the dollar could just as easily be backed by another commodity, such as wheat or copper, for example.
“It was a good idea at the time, but why gold? Why forever? It’s a question for our time,” said Johnson, the author of a not-yet-published biography of Calvin Coolidge.
Sympathetic to Paul and Grant’s advocacy against the Federal Reserve, Charles Dameron, a 2011 graduate of Dartmouth College, was not convinced of the need to return to the gold standard. “I’m not opposed to fiat currency,” said Dameron, referring to a currency system where money is not backed by a physical commodity.
But, Dameron concurred with Grant’s take on the Fed, saying the central bank was “using fiscal stimulus in a very egregious way.”
Beyond his long-running advocacy of a return to the gold standard, Grant made light of the Occupy Wall Street protestors camped out not far from his office in lower Manhattan.
“Many of them are so young and earnest that nobody has the heart to tell them that Wall Street – the financial place – moved uptown or to Greenwich, Conn., about 40 years ago,” Grant quipped to his appreciative crowd, borrowing from an address delivered to a fixed-income gathering two weeks ago in Boston.
The OWS protestors do have grounds for complaint, according to Grant, although he fingered the “heavily regulated and subsidized system in place” for rewarding bankers at the public’s expense.
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