Thought Archive

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New system for 21 century

Todays monetary and commercial system – build on the foundation laid at Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 - and economic arrangements related to it are coming to an end – as a oncoming New Great Depression. There will be no imminent Fall of the West but continuing and inevitable shift of economic power away from the current power brockers. Some of the clearest indicators of that is the oncoming devaluation of the dollar – not yet evident but assured as printing machines will be working overtime.

There is a reason that Bretton Woods agreement worked so well for over 60 years. The U.S. dollar was the currency with the most purchasing power and it was the only currency that was backed by gold. Additionally, all European nations that had been involved in World War II were highly in debt and transferred large amounts of gold into the United States, a fact that contributed to the supremacy of the United States. Thus, the U.S. dollar was strongly appreciated and became the currency of choice for Bretton Woods system. The withdrawal of US away from the gold standard in 1971 left a peculiar sitation of dollar as a reserve currency – the situation continuing to this day. This situation will change now – maybe as soon as next decade.

What had happened at Bretton Woods Conference? To ensure economic stability and political peace, states agreed to cooperate to regulate the international economic system. The pillar of the U.S. vision of the postwar world was free trade. Free trade involved lowering tariffs and among other things a balance of trade favorable to the capitalist system – and at that time – to the only mass-manufacturing nation on the planet.

Setting up a system of rules, institutions, and procedures to regulate the international monetary system, the planners at Bretton Woods established the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These organizations became operational in 1945 after a sufficient number of countries had ratified the agreement. Will these agreements be slowly undone?

3 comments:

Phil Marx said...

The United States wants to wield power without taking the necessary responsibility. We want other nations to submit to U.N., while we ourselves ignore it. Look at the global trade agreements which were derived from Breton Woods. For years, U.S. was biggest proponent of this. Then, as soon as we perceive that it is not benefiting us as much as we would like, we (at least some citizens) are prepared to scrap the entire thing.

Breton Woods was a U.S. creation, and it’s sole purpose was to ensure prosperity of this country. World stability was an ancillary benefit that made our prosperity more likely and made it easier to sell it to other nations, but the real goal was transparent. What was shocking about Nixon’s dropping the gold standard was how quickly we made this unilateral decision - true leadership at it’s finest.

The current world order is not functional. The simple fact that five nations hold veto power over entire U.N. pretty much epitomizes the entire problem. At end of WWII, this made sense because it reflected somewhat the true balance of power. Such is not the case today.

Even though the changes that I think are necessary would lessen the leverage my country has over world institutions, I still think this is in my country’s interest. A dysfunctional system will eventually collapse upon itself and the one at the top is the one who will probably be hurt the most at that time.

Although most Americans probably still don’t realize this today, our dropping of the gold standard was an early indication that we lack the will and/or capabilities which are necessary to continually support our desired domination of the world political/economic structures. No one can maintain this posture indefinitely and eventually the U.S. will either have to stand down (to some degree) or the rest of the world will bring it down.

I suppose you might think that I, as an American, should be ashamed of this country’s narrow minded, selfish and duplicitous behavior. Luckily, I know enough about world history and humanity to know that we are no better or worse than anyone else.

Riri said...

Yes you are right not to be ashamed Phil - anybody else in the US place would have done exactly the same and probably much much worse.

I think we will just have to resign ourselves to the undeniable fact that we are simply human, and no matter how beautiful and big the abstract ideals we might aspire to (or claim to aspire to), many of us are simply incapable or not willing enough to actually apply them into practice. The reason is simple: noone wants to be the first to do it and expose themselves to the risk of losing even an ounce of power. Because you need to have enough power in order to be able to initiate change and lead in the first place. And democracies do not really grant power in a sufficient quantity - a benevolent dictator has a lot more chances of bringing about positive change than a democratic president. Of course, benevolent dictators are not exactly an over represented species! Vicious circle.

I think one of the limitations of modern politics is that it involves too many lobby groups (which is also a strength in another way). This creates a huge lag time during which the initial situation might have enough time to auto-fix itself without any input from politicians. The end result is that sometimes people simply think that politics is useless and ineffective. They're justified to a certain degree.

Phil Marx said...

Benevolent dictators are great, and you're right that they can get a lot more done than in a democracy. The problem is that the son ho follows is usually a tyrant, coward or idiot. That's the institutional weakness of a dictatorship, in general.

Of course, what passes itself off as democracy could easily be termed serial dictatorship instead. Sure, the leaders have to go through the election process, but ionce in place they basically run rough-shod over the people.

Seriously, look at President Bush. He proposed that he be alloweed to unilaterally declare American citizens as enemy combatants and thus strip them of their constitutional rights. And his attorney general posited that the writ of habius corpus does not actually apply here. Just those two acts alone were an an assault against our political constitution. But it's okay because, after all, he was elected to office.

I think the only solution I can think of is for me to win a billion bucks in the lottery and buy my own small island and live there in peace.