Not too much in the way of pathbreaking theory here for the old veterans, but you might add these to your rhetorical arsenal:
One of the most absurd objections to returning to a gold standard is that “You can’t eat gold.” I am not making this up; Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times actually said that to Ron Paul when he defended the idea on the Colbert Report.
Dr. Paul didn’t really get a chance to answer (Colbert instead made a funny joke about idolatry), but it would have been delicious had he quickly asked the cynic, “Oh, so you make sandwiches out of Federal Reserve notes?” (We also would have accepted, “Oh, so I take it you are proposing a hamburger standard for the dollar?”)
Actually, I did get into some deep thoughts at the end, provoked by Blackadder from the comments in an earlier blog post:
Finally, a critic could (and actually did, on my blog) ask how this arrangement [of the gold price not being a price control] differs from the current one? After all, right now Bernanke “sets” interest rates, but not through literal price controls. Instead, the Fed adjusts the quantity of reserves in the banking sector such that the “market-determined” federal funds rate is close enough to the Fed’s target for this interest rate. So isn’t this basically the same thing as the gold standard, with a different “good” serving as the monetary commodity?
There are two problems with this sophisticated objection. First, in the current system the Fed has a moving federal-funds target. At best, then, it would be analogous only if the Federal Open Market Committee said after each meeting, “We are now setting the target price of gold at such-and-such dollars. However, if unemployment begins rising and core CPI is under 2 percent, we will begin raising the target price of gold in $10 increments over the next few meetings.” That system would be nothing like the classical gold standard.
Yet the deeper problem with the analogy is that on a classical gold standard, the government is (imperfectly) mimicking what would happen if the money were actually gold, with people walking around with gold coins in their pockets, and merchants quoting prices not in dollars but in grains or ounces of gold. The classical gold standard, by fixing the dollar as convertible into a definite and constant weight of gold, doesn’t introduce another price: the dollar is supposed to be a claim-ticket to gold. This isn’t really “price fixing,” any more than defining a foot as 12 inches is “central planning.”
In contrast, what would be the free-market analog of the Fed’s current strategy of targeting short-term interest rates? The only thing I can think of is if the money commodity in a community weren’t something tangible like gold, silver, or tobacco, but rather overnight bonds issued by banks. Yet what is a bond but a promise to deliver money? So how could the money itself be a short-term bond? At this point I am dropping the analogy, lest I become permanently cross-eyed.