From the Gold Standard to a Bipolar Monetary System
This paper argues that the international monetary system will evolve into a bipolar structure consisting of a dollar area and a euro area, each of which attracting other countries to their gravitational centers. A deepening and widening of NAFTA and the EU will enlarge the sphere of influence of both currencies; trade wars will restrict them. The yen is a big question mark. The deep and still unresolved financial crisis in Japan works against the enlargement of the yen; deregulation of its financial markets, with the attendant decline in transaction costs, goes in the opposite direction. Our conclusion is that the yen area will be much smaller than the dollar and the euro area and, consequently, the two large blocs will shape the international monetary system of the 21st century in a critical way. We also discuss feasible scenarios of interaction between currency blocs. A large EMU works in favor of cooperation because fewer players imply lower decision-making costs in reaching a cooperative solution. The relative closeness of the EMU and the United States, on the other hand, works against cooperation and in favor of benign neglect. Exchange-rate agreements are fragile unless supported by strong commitment to economic policy cooperation, and such a commitment may well be premature. The article advocates that the United States and EMU target common inflation rates, an idea that Keynes proposed back in 1923. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998
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