Cognitive Constraints and Reversibility of International Economic Institutions. The Case of the European Monetary System
This paper builds on the case study of the birth and death of the fixed exchange rate system in Western Europe, prior to the launch of the Euro. The analysis of this case aims to highlight how "new" international economic institutions may suffer the processes of "preference reversals" and thereby implode. De facto, the paper focuses on the cognitive factors that are deemed to have played an important role in determining the originating decision-making processes in favour of a system of fixed exchange rates and, then, in determining the abandonment of that system. After briefly explaining events such as the "currency snake" and the "European Monetary System" (EMS), the paper highlights how processes of this nature are conditional on the extent of the limits of rationality of the decision-making agents, with the consequence of producing cognitive imbalances. These imbalances are determined by the "fuzziness" with which agents evaluate not only opposing objectives, in particular those of employment and the balance of payments, but especially objectives achievable in an intertemporal dimension (Walliser, 2008: ch. 4). In fact, we illustrate how the actual inflationary differentials between the countries concerned determine the imbalances in the balances of payments. We also highlight how the policies to bring inflation under control can determine changes in the electorate in the preferences defined in the area of economic policies. The collapse of the monetary snake and the European Monetary System is representative of such a change in preferences. The conceptual framework of analysis used is that of temporary equilibria.
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