MIT's Bigotry Against Those Who Value Gold

What does it tell us when one of the world's most-respected bastions of higher learning, MIT, would rather embrace prejudism than entertain the idea that gold may have a role to play in our monetary future?


In January, the MIT Club of Northern California extended an invitation for me to be the featured speaker at an upcoming alumni event. One of the organizers had read my Crash Course book and thought its core theme -- limtis to economic growth caused by depletion of key resources, particularly in our gobal energy sytems -- was very relevant to MIT's sciences-heavy alumni base. I concurred.

Adam spent the next few months working with the MIT Club to secure the funding, venue, speaking points, etc. A final contract was sent to us last week, which we signed.

On Friday, a call came in from the organizer apologizing that MIT needed to back out of the event. Disappointed, but respectful of their decision (it is their event, after all), Adam asked about the reason for the cancellation.

Here's where it gets interesting:

Because we write about gold here at

Not because the focus of the event had shifted (it hadn't). Not because I had changed my views or what I write on in the months since their invitation arrived (I hadn't). Not because, on further review, MIT found fundamental issues with the framework and/or research my presentation would be based on (they hadn't). Or perhaps the date was no longer convenient. Any of these would have been an understandable rationale.

But to cancel the event because my website analyzes developments in the precious metals markets? A topic completely separate from what my presentation was going to focus on? (the connection between economic growth and net energy)

We were told that the "optics" of MIT alumni discovering I write about gold were so concerning that the Club finally decided it was a deal-breaker when it came time for them to sign the contract.
As the organizer put it "Not all of our alumni know who Chris is. If they do a Google search on him, come to and see he writes about gold, well...  That's simply too far from what we're about. We just can't risk going there".

Think about the message that is sending: if you own gold or even just follow it in the news, MIT regards you as unacceptably deviant.

As for the "optics" MIT is concerned about, what exactly are they? That gold is the best performing asset class of the past decade? That gold is held by nearly all of the worlds central banks, and they've been increasing those holdings at a record pace? That it (and silver) is the only acceptable form of money specified by the US Constitution? That mainstream members of our political and financial establishment -- such as Bill Gross, David Stockman, George Soros, David Walker, Richard Russell -- are public supporters of owning precious metals? That an increasing number of US states are passing legislation to return gold to legal tender status within their borders?

These don't appear (to me at least) to be reasons for treating those who hold a favorable opinion of gold like intellectual lepers.

I titled this article "MIT's Bigotry Against Those Who Value Gold" because that's the best word I can think of to describe their position here.

And as society has progressed to the point where it is unacceptable to display intolerance based on gender, religion, race, sexual preference and a number of other factors -- I feel the need to ask: why should those who hold a belief in the value of precious metals be exempt? Why should prejudism against those who care about the soundness of their monetary system be somehow OK?

The short answer is: it's not OK. And I suspect MIT has fallen into a narrative trap our media has set for them. My surprise is that, of all audiences, I would have expected MIT to be smart and skeptical enough to avoid it.

A Teachable Moment

Despite the loss of the opportunity to speak to a group of presumably well educated and curious people, there is a wonderful teachable moment here for all of us. 

The most important thing is to always remain open and curious about where we are headed, what we think we know, and for the important decisions that sit before us as we face new challenges and opportunities.

The work of Peak Prosperity, and my personal mission for the past eight years, is to elevate awareness about the profound predicaments we face in the economy, energy and environment and to then open up a safe, sane and adult sized conversation about the implications and actions we need to consider.

Ironically enought, in the inaugural address made by the current president of MIT, speaking to both to those at the institution and to alumni, he said, "Today, as the world faces grave problems around water and food, poverty and disease, energy and climate, society needs the creative force of its universities more than ever. "

These are exactly the issues that I work hard to address in my online works but also, and just as importantly, in live presentations where audiences can better gauge my trustworthiness and delve more deeply with their own questions.

The main learning that I had over the years is that the biggest impediment to getting this message across is not the information itself, but rather people's own entrenched beliefs. These could be beliefs about technology, which many hold will save the day, or perhaps something related to faith in authority that will prevent them from truly hearing a message until and unless the government first announces that it is worth attending to.

This partially explains why the Peak Prosperity site is somewhat heavily populated by people with numerical, data centric backgrounds (doctors, engineers, scientists) or trained in some form of logic and reason (lawyers and philosophy  majors).  The one trait that everyone shares, regardless of background is curiosity; a term that the same president of MIT used to describe the students at his university.

So why would the empirically-minded curous folks of MIT have such a big beef with gold? And what can we learn from that?

The Narrative Trap

I can only speculate as to what the underlying beliefs might be that would disqualify a speaker to the MIT alumni origination, but I can take a few guesses.

The first might be that the modern version of Keynesian economics is viscerally opposed to gold, as exemplified by the  increasingly cavalier and careless Paul  Krugman who has been caught playing fast and loose with facts to support his personal and possibly professional distaste for gold, and goldbugs about whom he said:

Well, the inflationistas/goldbugs are really, really annoying -- all this air of having the secret wisdom when they actually haven't a clue. And they have been a real destructive factor in policy debate, standing in the way of effective policy by raising fears of Weimar and Zimbabwe. So seeing the one thing they got right -- betting on higher gold prices -- turn sour is cause for a bit of celebration.


Such obvious emotional verbiage speaks not of an opinion built carefully from facts, but of a belief. 

Or perhaps the MIT response indicates that the vast marketing campaign against gold in the US press has hit its mark, one message of that being something along the lines of "you are foolish if you associate with gold."   I could certainly understand why MIT alumni would be sensitive to appearing foolish in any way, so perhaps they internalized headlines and messages such as these  without really being aware that these are largely the creation of PR departments of financial institutions with vested interests in pushing the price of gold hither and yon:


  • I think we're OK so far, but let's be careful not to make this post come off as a rant becuase we missed out on a speaking gig. Let's be sure to keep the central outrage -- the disparaging of the reader's viewpoint -- front and center.
  • Near the end, we should invite the reader, especially if they're an MIT alumnus, to contact the MIT Alumni Association to express their reaction (whatever it may be):
    • email:
    • phone: 617-253-8200
    • facebook:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at