For more than three decades, Ron Paul has advocated for returning the U.S. economy to the gold standard. Now the idea is starting to take hold. In March 2011, Utah became the first state to change the legal status of gold and silver from assets to currency, meaning their exchange can no longer be taxed. And they can, in theory, be used to buy stuff.
As of press time, the Missouri senate was nearing a vote on a bill of its own, and the movement is gaining steam in South Carolina. In total, 13 states have introduced gold and silver legislation in the past year. Since it's unlikely people will begin toting gold bars to the pharmacy, the most-discussed model for purchasing goods with metals is with a debit card issued by gold and silver depositories.
By being linked to the fixed value of the metals, the gold-standard model could prevent devaluation of personal wealth due to the printing of more paper money by the Fed. But the arrangement also risks torpedoing another institution: the recycled-gold industry, which saw more than $20 billion worth of the metal transacted globally in Q1 of 2012. And is our cash-for-gold culture really ready for that?
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.