Utah took its first step Friday toward bringing back the gold standard when the state House passed a bill that would recognize gold and silver coins issued by the federal government as legal currency.
The House voted 47-26 in favor of the legislation that would also exempt the sale of gold from the state capital gains tax and calls for a committee to study alternative currencies for the state.
The legislation now heads to the state Senate, where a vote is expected next week.
Under the bill, the coins would not replace the current paper currency but would be used and accepted voluntarily as an alternative.
If the bill passes, Utah would become the first of 13 states that have proposed similar measures. The others states are Colorado, Georgia, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington.
Backers of Utah's bill say they want to send a message to the rest of the country.
"People sense that in the era of quantitative easing and zero interest rates, something has gone haywire with our monetary policy," said Jeffrey Bell, policy director for the Washington-based American Principles in Action, which helped shape the bill.
"If one state recognizes gold as a valid currency, I think it would embolden people not just in other states but in Washington," he said.
The U.S. used the gold standard from 1873 until 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlawed the private ownership of gold amid the Great Depression. President Richard Nixon abandoned the gold standard altogether when he announced in 1971 that the U.S. would no longer convert dollars to gold at a fixed value.
Critics of the gold standard say it limits countries' control over its monetary policy and leaves them vulnerable to financial shocks, such as the Great Depression. But supporters argue that the current financial system's dependence on the Federal Reserve exposes the value of U.S. money to the risk of runaway inflation.