|Bryan lost the 1896 Presidential Elections. Why?
The Democrats lost the 1896 Presidential elections to the
Republicans, with Mc Kinley. They also lost the next 2 elections, in spite of their strong
backing in the popular classes.
Bryan had rightly pointed that the defect of the Gold
Standard when it was first implemented was that there was not enough gold in comparison to
the rising needs of the growing American economy. The effect was deflationary. If the USA had been on a bimetallic
standard between 1875 and 1890, the economy could have expanded far more than it did,
restricted as it was in its monetary straight jacket.
So, if Bryan was right, why did he lose the elections ?
According to Friedman, Bryan was right, but 20 years too
late. He wanted the free coinage of silver at 16:1 in 1896, a very inflationnist proposal.
If the bimetallic standard had been maintained in 1873, then deflation would not have
occurred, and even a slight inflation would have been possible. Anyway, inflation came,
but this time it was via gold. Go to next slide to learn why. Bryan himself admitted that
what he sought with silver had been achieved by gold but, ever a wonderful orator, he
didn't take it as a defeat :
Suppose the citizens of a town were
divided, nearly equally, on the question of water supply, one faction contending that the
amount should be increased, and suggesting that the increase be piped from Silver Lake,
the other faction insisting no more water was needed; suppose that at the election the
opponents of an increase won (no matter by what means); and suppose, soon after the
election, a spring which may be described as Gold Spring, broke forth in the very center
of the city, with a flow of half as much water as the city had before used; and suppose
the new supply was turned into the city reservoir to the joy and benefit of all the people
of the town. Which faction would, in such a case, have been vindicated ? Just such a
result has followed a similar increase in the nation's supply of money to the joy of all -
thus proving the contentions of the bimetallists.
From The Memoirs of William Jennings
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