On the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page (Trump’s Real Trade Problem Is Money ), John D. Mueller discusses the gold standard and claims something that I've either never heard before, don't understand, or both.
Many economists wrongly assume that total world net exports must equal zero, but in fact countries participating in the international gold standard had combined net exports equal to the total increase in world gold reserves (which in turn approximated world gold exports). As a result, world monetary policy was countercyclical: When the prices of other goods fell, the profitability of gold mining rose.
First, I thought it was tautological that global net exports had to be zero. Is Mueller's claim correct? Does it turn on a technicality of the definition of net exports? Please help me understand his position.
Second, is it accurate to characterize gold standard monetary policy as counter-cyclical? My understanding is that recessions in the gold standard era were marked by deflation where as in the fiat currency era recessions are merely dis-inflationary. If so, is it fair to call the gold standard substantially less counter-cyclical than fiat currency systems?