Bretton Woods

It's a small world (after all)

Originally built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the “It’s a small world” exhibition re-opened at Disneyland two years later in 1966. At the time, the international monetary system was characterized by fixed exchange rates and widespread capital controls.

A half century later, global finance has been transformed so that exchange rates are now mostly flexible and cross-border capital mobility is generally high. As they say in Disneyland, it’s a small world after all...

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AIIB: The first international financial institution of the 21st century

In 1945, a group of 43 nations led by the United States, then the world’s dominant economic power, created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now part of the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund – the “Bretton Woods institutions” – to promote reconstruction after World War II. However, the global economy has evolved much faster than the operations of either the Bretton Woods institutions or some of their regional siblings like the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

What happens when official international financial institutions (IFIs) fail to respond to a changing environment? The same thing that happens to firms that stop innovating. New, more competitive institutions (firms) arise that compel them to change or – like dinosaurs – become extinct. We may be witnessing this process of creative destruction right now. Last month, a group of 57 founding nations led by China signed the articles of agreement to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with an initial subscribed capital of $100 billion

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Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

On the occasion of the Fed’s Jackson Hole Symposium, the New York Sun published an editorial attacking central banking and fiat money. Let’s get this out of the way at the start: we are big fans of both. In our view, the world is a more stable and prosperous place with central banks than it was without them. And fiat money allows a central bank to stabilize the price of goods and services that would be quite volatile if, instead, we chose to steady the price of gold (the Sun’s apparent favorite). The result is higher growth from which we all benefit.

We also like tabloids. They’re fun. Our main problem with the Sun’s piece is its all-too-common mode of argument.

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