Global Finance: Still A Mess

The biggest tragedy of the 2008 recession was not the pain of the recession, painful as it was, but that the world did not rise up to the challenge and rearchitect the global financial system. Now it might be too late, because the major part of the crisis is over.

The global monetary system: Not floating, but flailing
Global commerce has long faced a fundamental tension: the more certainty countries create around exchange rates, the less room they have to manage domestic economic affairs. Thirty years before Bretton Woods a war wrecked the world’s first stab at the problem—the gold standard—and the attempt to rebuild it in the 1920s led to depression and another war. The exchange-rate system agreed at Bretton Woods lasted only a generation. After 150 years of experimentation the world has yet to solve its monetary problem. ...... Developing countries also found pegs hard to resist. Fixed exchange rates can encourage monetary discipline and tame inflation—a common emerging-world problem—while reducing borrowing costs. Yet too often pegs ended painfully, as overindebted economies found it impossible to maintain the discipline needed to protect them. Markets pounced, initiating crises and forcing devaluations—most dramatically in the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8. ..... Emerging economies have instead shifted toward managed rates maintained through market intervention. China, the world’s second-largest economy, is a particularly energetic manipulator of its currency, and has at times used an outright dollar peg. As a result over half of global economic activity is concentrated within two massive single-currency blocs. ...... The aversion to floating is a puzzle. Fixed rates can reduce borrowing costs, but the result is often a debt-binge and crisis. Modern technology reduces currency transaction costs. IMF research finds that flexible exchange rates reduce vulnerability to both macroeconomic and financial crises. ...... economies with floating currencies did better in the global financial crisis and its aftermath. ..... China claims to be gradually freeing its capital account and encouraging trade denominated in yuan. That may finally bring down the curtain on the dollar era initiated by Bretton Woods. Yet in practice China is reluctant to give up the perceived safety of a managed exchange rate. Gold habits are hard to break.

Renewed Calls From China For a Global Super-Currency To Replace "Bretton Woods II"
a 'super-currency' for international trade, and not to replace any currencies for domestic use. ..... The World Bank's former chief economist wants to replace the US dollar with a single global super-currency, saying it will create a more stable global financial system. ...... expanding the basket of major reserve currencies — the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and pound sterling — will not address the consequences of a financial crisis. ....... Internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer ....... Lin urged the international community, especially the US and European Union, to play a leading role in currency and infrastructure initiatives. To boost the global economy, he proposed the launch of a "global infrastructure initiative" to remove development bottlenecks in poor and developing countries, a measure he said would also offer opportunities for advanced economies. ........ The concept of a global "super currency" tied to a basket of currencies has been periodically discussed by world leaders as well as endorsed by 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz. ...... "A supranational currency may be a new direction for development of the global financial system. It also requires different countries to cooperate in coordinating macroeconomic policies..."

The Global Importance Of Paul Volcker's Call For A 'New Bretton Woods'
The recovery of trade, the opening of financial markets, and the lifting of controls on current accounts led in the 1950’s and 60’s to sustained growth and stability. ...... the absence of an official, rules-based cooperatively managed, monetary system has not been a great success. In fact, international financial crises seem at least as frequent and more destructive in impeding economic stability and growth........ The United States, in particular, had in the 1970’s an unhappy decade of inflation ending in stagflation. The major Latin American debt crisis followed in the 1980’s. There was a serious banking crisis late in that decade, followed by a new Mexican crisis, and then the really big and damaging Asian crisis. Less than a decade later, it was capped by the financial crisis of the 2007-2009 period and the great Recession. Not a pretty picture. ........ the fiduciary dollar standard has significantly underperformed both the Bretton Woods gold exchange standard and the classical gold standard in every major category ...... The number of banking crises per year has soared to 2.6 per year, compared to only one every ten years under Bretton Woods
The G20 must look beyond Bretton Woods II


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