Sunday, 26 October 2008
Aqua regia (royal water) is a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, and it can dissolve gold. Here's a cunning plan to change the global economy: dig a tunnel into Fort Knox and then flood it with aqua regia, washing away most of the world's gold. Economists would then be forced to think about the nature of money and to realize that it is not anchored on anything physical. Although the gold standard was long ago abandoned, people still behave as if gold were a sort of money, and countries hold on to their ownership of piles of the stuff in Fort Knox. The trouble is that gold is rather useless stuff, except for making electrical connectors and small items that must resist corrosion. It is far too dense for anything large except paperweights or the veneer on busts of Kate Moss. The mug I am drinking from would weigh ten times as much as the tea it contains if it were made from gold. So let's dissolve away the gold in Fort Knox and base money on something really valuable such as wood. If countries knew that the value of their money depended on their forests, their timbered buildings and their wooden furniture and their shelfloads of books, perhaps they would think twice about turning wood into carbon dioxide.