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Inside Investment: Gold – Goodbye yellow brick road

Reports of life in the barbarous relic have been greatly exaggerated.

In the sepia-tinged past when there were but three terrestrial TV channels in the UK and no household owned more than one receiver, Christmas viewing was both familial and communal. Before the advent of VCRs, big films were an event. One eagerly anticipated annual treat was The Wizard of Oz. This timeless 1939 classic was as redolent of Christmas as midnight Mass, mince pies and mistletoe. These were more innocent times when the term "friend of Dorothy" referred only to Toto. Few viewers agog at the technicolor world of Oz would have been aware of the political subtext of the story. The original book by L Frank Baum was published in 1900 and draws on the debates of the 1890s when the Democrats were opposed to the US staying on the gold standard because of persistent deflation. This particularly afflicted farmers, such as Dorothy’s parents, who were impoverished by falling prices.

Their champion was William Jennings Bryan. In a bravura performance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1896 he whipped his audience into a frenzy with this messianic declamation: "Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the labouring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: ‘You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.’"

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