Ari J. Officer
Time Magazine
March 19, 2009

Is Gold Really the Safest Investment?

Gold is on the move. As the price of gold threatens to push permanently above $1,000 per ounce, it raises questions about why gold is becoming such a hot commodity and whether it truly is a safe harbor.

[efoods]There is no question that gold’s price run-up is purely speculative. Since the beginning of 2009, the number of outstanding shares in the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD), the most popular exchange-traded gold fund, has climbed about 33%. Demand for gold has increased significantly.

But why? At such high prices, gold ceases to have much practical use. There is no theoretical rationale why anyone should even want to invest in it. Gold has value only because we believe it is valuable. It is a collective hallucination. (Read “What Sells in a Recession: Canned Goods and Condoms.”)

There is something else we use every day that, like gold, has no inherent value: cash. Of course, there’s a major difference between gold and cash: unlike the dollar, the nondollar value of gold won’t be significantly impacted by the U.S. government — only its price in dollars via the government’s impact on the dollar.

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