The Gold Standard in Theory and History

By Barry Eichengreen; Marc Flandreau | Go to book overview

14

The gold exchange standard

Ragnar Nurkse*

Among the various schemes and proposals which repeatedly crop up in discussions of monetary reform, one that has enjoyed a wide appeal is the idea of an international currency system with exchange rates stable, as under the gold standard, but with liquid foreign balances constituting the international means of settlement and the international monetary reserves. Gold, it has been suggested, could be dispensed with in such a system not only as a means of international payment but also as a standard of value, especially if the currency or currencies in which the reserves were held were maintained reasonably stable in terms of goods and services.

Monetary history has furnished many examples of the exchange standard principle. Indeed, the practical application of this principle must find a place in any account, however condensed, of international monetary relations during the interwar period. The gold standard that was 'restored' in the 1920s was in the main a gold exchange standard. But an exchange standard need not be a gold exchange standard; the sterling area which emerged from the currency chaos of the Great Depression in the 1930s is another important example of the exchange reserve system.

* From League of Nations, International Currency Experience, Geneva, League of Nations, 1944, pp. 27-46, abridged.

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