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SAN FRANCISCO - It has never been easy to have a rational conversation about the value of gold.
Wouldn't you know it?
So it can happen anywhere.
Some have argued instead that gold's long upward march has been partly driven by the development of new financial instruments that make it easier to trade and speculate in gold.
Wouldn't it be paradoxical, then, if financial alchemy could make an ingot of gold worth dramatically more?
So, yes, there are solid fundamentals that arguably support today's higher gold price, although it is far more debatable whether and to what extent they will continue to support higher prices in the future.
It is therefore dangerous to extrapolate from short-term trends.
If you are a high-net-worth investor, a sovereign wealth fund, or a central bank, it makes perfect sense to hold a modest proportion of your portfolio in gold as a hedge against extreme events.
Indeed, on the surface it seems to be its perfect antithesis: the collapse of a wall symbolizing oppression and artificial divisions versus the collapse of a seemingly indestructible and reassuring institution of financial capitalism.
For many of his supporters, it was President Ronald Reagan who, with his deliberate escalation of the arms race, pushed the Soviet economy to the brink, thereby fully demonstrating the superiority of liberal societies and free markets.
This did not happen, because neither the Western Allies nor the Soviet Union supported it.
It was part of the 1945 consensus.
Citizens, it was thought, had to become more self-reliant; government welfare programs were making everyone soft and dependent.
In 1989, it looked as if the dark legacy of World War II, the enslavement of Eastern Europe, was finally over.
Admittedly, getting to a much higher price for gold is not quite the leap of imagination that it seems.
Even the United States abrogated indexation clauses in bond contracts during the Great Depression of the 1930's. So it can happen anywhere.
Even so, the fact that very high inflation is possible does not make it probable, so one should be cautious in arguing that higher gold prices are being driven by inflation expectations.
Today, with interest rates near or at record lows in many countries, it is relatively cheap to speculate in gold instead of investing in bonds.
But, despite gold's heightened allure in the wake of an extraordinary run-up in its price, it remains a very risky bet for most of us.
At the start of the crisis, many people likened it to 1982 or 1973, which was reassuring, because both dates refer to classical cyclical downturns.
Second, whereas democracy and market capitalism appeared as clear - if more fragile than expected - winners in 1989, it is difficult in 2009, with the spread of the global crisis, to distinguish winners from losers.