Let us imagine it is the first of August 2015 and we find ourselves in the garden of the Gold coin currency foundation. The short speech by the foundation manager is over, the ceremony guests, a colorful mix of politics, economy and society, help themselves at the buffet and grill.
The Gold franc association's original board members meet at the same table, reminisce and gladly answer questions from the public.
The Gold franc association members and their motives.
What was your initial motivation and what is in it for you now?
Thomas Jacob, President
Economics at Zurich University, Former Swissair pilot, financial consulting, nonpartisan
My motivation was and remains my interest in an idea that could probably only be realized in Switzerland. Incidentally, I never had a special relation to gold except in the form of jewelry. I continue to lead the association and am advising several institutions and companies in connection with the Gold coin currency. (Photo by Nicolas Y. Aebi)
|Dr. Christoph Luchsinger, Vice President
Entrepreneur, mathematics lecturer University of Zurich and Basel, FDP
I was skeptical at first. Gold -has not the Keynes disqualified as "barbarous relic"? The more I looked into it, the more I was convinced first of the practical benefits to the economy and then of the benefit to the proverbial "little guy". Very important for me is to strengthen the property rights of the Swiss - a central focus of my party, the FDP. I am still am a board member of the association and a consultant to the Foundation.
|Dr. Karl Zweifel, Vice President
I have studied gold and money for years, in the tradition of Alain Greenspan's classic essay "Gold and Economic Freedom". The gold coin is a peaceful, voluntary adoption of a gold currency, an idea that inspired me immediately. I am still on the board of the association.
|Marc Von Rohr, Vice President
As an entrepreneur in finance I became increasingly worried about the monetary system. The idea of an additional currency needed getting used, but it convinced me quickly and permanently. I am also still a board member and advisor to the Foundation.
|Dr. Paolo Pamini, Eeconomist
Business Consultant, FDP
When I started pondering the idea, it soon became evident that it was pretty much what Ihave been looking for. The gold coin is based on voluntary action, it will benefit all who use it, and there's no obligation and no coercion. I have retired from the Board due to workload.
|Dr. Olivier Ledoit, Economist
Researcher Zurich University, nonpartisan
I taught at UCLA mathematical models and then used them for years in practice, as a financial trader in London. But the more I learned, the greater became my worries. The idea of an additional currency was fascinating, but I also needed some time until my questions were answered and I could to commit myself to the idea. I am still responsible for the scientific coordination in the association. (Photo by TiPress/F. Agost)
|Maurizio Galli, IT Manager
My background is IT. I have grown along with the project, ideologically as well as IT-wise. I am still in charge of IT.
|Renata Jacob, Cashier
Financial Consultant, nonpartisan
In my daily work I see my clients increasinglingly worrying about their financial future. The Gold coin currency will give everybody a additional alternative to protect himself from the imponderables of international monetary politics.
The popular initiative
Why did you launch a popular initiative?
In March of 2011 a parliamentarian picked up the idea of a Gold coin currency and placed it in parliament as a parliamentary initiative. The initiative was voted down in the responsible commission in May 2012, a foreseeable result considering party politics. In between these dates we founded the Gold franc association, finetuned the proposal and gained experience with the media and with politics. After the vote in the commission, the mission was clear: an popular initiative was needed to get control of the political process .
Along with the initiative we changed the name of the project from “Gold franc” to “Gold coin currency”. This was unfortunately necessary because the more attractive name Goldfranc constantly lead to confusion regarding it’s relationship with the paper Franc and the old Swiss gold coins.
Your success was surely helped by the economic development in Switzerland and abroad. How important was this?
Even I was less interested in monetary matters in the 90-ies than since the financial crisis, and we are not the only ones who offered new ideas. In this respect, a willingness to deal with money issues certainly increased by the financial crisis. Would a gold coin currency under other circumstances ever have gotten attention? ...
An interesting and at the same academic question. The question today is a different one. The gold coins are supposed to give people a choice in monetary matters, they should complement the paper Franc and in this way complete and stabilize the monetary system. I dare say we have enough experience to declare that this combination works, that people use paper money for daily use and gold money as a liquid store of value and that they don’t want to miss this choice anymore.
I personally think that the most important aspect for public support is the stabilizing effect of the gold coin currency on the Swiss franc and that this helps the National Bank. After all, this argument later convinced a large part of business and trade unions.
I am not sure about that, after all, the numerical impact of the gold franc on the Swiss franc is still controversial.
For me, the problems of the pension funds were more decisive. They started being discussed with more urgency from the end of 2012 onward. Zero interest on securities combined with the threat of rising inflation, imported from the euro zone, made the people worried and afraid. It's amazing how many retirees already choose to get part of their pensions in gold coins. Meanwhile, the insurance sector is boasting almost disquieting growth rates in life insurance policies that guarantee a portion of the payment in gold coins.
These are all arguments that convinced the voters. In this regard, international attention must not be underestimated. I think the interest abroad in the Gold coin currency has surprised many Swiss and has sensitized them for the topic. The voters could and wanted to become part of a historic project.
How was the initiative committee formed?
We had the fixed plan to win important representatives of all the major parties and interest groups. It helped greatly that we were able to show all parties clear advantages.
When was there how much money?
In the first year the Board members paid all costs and expenses, we were baking small buns. Along with association members came a regular flow of money and toward the end of 2012 we were able to attract sponsors for projects and events.
The costs of the initiative were financed in installments. Some sponsors contributed several payments over a longer period of time.
The Gold coin currency foundation soon took over the administration of the association, which helped quite a bit.
What about the big sponsor?
We alwayst wanted to bear in mind the possibility of a large scale sponsor and maybe some secret prayers were heard.
The sponsor wanted to stay in the background until after the vote, today his name is part of history. The sponsor himself has repeatedly said that the gold coin was the most important and most profitable investment of his life.
His contribution was of enormous importance to the speedy implementation of the project. With this help we were able to prepare for “the time after” even during the voting campaign.
Publicitywise things suddenly took off like a rocket
M. von Rohr:
This took us by surprise indeed. Luckily, in mid-2012, the arguments were complete and sophisticated, almost all important information was available on the website, with contributions from all major media channels and with the credibility of such scientific experts as Prof. Geiger, Janssen and Bernholz.
I had the honor to be part of the report on Swiss national TV. I was surprised about the deep interest and knowledge of the protagonists. As you are surly aware, the show was the start of ongoing media attention
Did you expect such a clear voting verdict?
As an observer from the italian part of Switzerland had no reason to doubt that we would win. But I still hear the appeals by the board to show full commitment all the way up to the voting day.
Let’s go back to the beginnings. The Gold franc association was founded in July of 2011. Who of you would have thought that the Gold coin currency would be reality within a few years?
P. Pamini :
Surely no one had a clear timetable. Our priorities changed in step with the many new experiences
As a parliamentarian on the cantonal level, I know that politics is unpredictable. But even in politics it is in the end always individuals that make a difference and there are always surprprises
Olivier Ledoit used to say that such projects sometimes need time to ripen. But I wanted to give fate a chance to surprise us. We found a separate motto for the political process ...
...yes, we know that, we have heard it often enough in the last few years: "sometimes things happen in a moment that were not expected in a year" or something along these lines. Can you give us some examples?
The first public lecture on the Goldfranc was an FDP lunch talk in Zurich in April 2011. One prominent guest, the Basel Professor Peter Bernholz, took the trouble to come from Basel for the occasion. Professor Bernholz is an internationally respected expert on monetary issues and has often worked together with the Swiss National Bank. After the talk he expressed his support for the cause and wrote an extensive article in the most respected Swiss daily. Such support cannot be planned and is at the same time invaluable for scientific and political recognition.
Another example is publicity. In June 2011, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal online and for a while we were internationally better known than in Switzerland. Forbes magazine wrote about the project and we were mentioned on CNBC and Olivier Ledoit traveled as a representative of the gold franc to a large gold conference in Utah etc.
A counter-example was the reaction of some politicians. From some of them I expected a lot more openness. Party politics was a sobering experience for me.
To finish off, back to the first steps: where did the idea originate?
The idea was born in March 2010, in a slightly different form. I was looking at all kinds of political activities across all party lines when I also came across the "sound currency" movement of three SVP-parliamentarians. Its main concern was the stabilizing and strengthening of the existing monetary system through preventing the remaining gold reserves of the Swiss national bank from being sold off. The Gold coin currency idea was also about gold and money and at the same time something completely different. It is is a new, additional currency and has nothing to do with either the gold reserves of the National Bank or with the existing monetary system. Nevertheless the parliamentarian Dr. Ulrich Schlüer picked up the idea and placed it in parliament in the form of a parliamentary initiative. At the same time he told me that for him protecting the remaining gold reserves in the national bank has priority. This gave us the possibility to found a nonpartisan association for the Gold coin initiative and to present it as the non-partisan project that in fact it was.
Thank you for the interesting interview.
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