International Monetary Cooperation

By George N. Halm | Go to book overview

III. THE LESSONS OF THE INTER-WAR PERIOD

INFLATION AND DEFLATION

THE CHAOS in international monetary relations during the interwar period cannot be used as an argument for the gold standard. These chaotic conditions were certainly not caused by the fact that most countries had gone off the gold standard. On the contrary, the gold standard mechanism had broken down under the first impact of the storm. Rather the chaos was due to the first World War and the complete absence of concerted international effort to solve the monetary problems of its aftermath. This failure, in turn, resulted from the nationalist and isolationist ideologies throughout the world. Since we are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the inter-war period, we should recapitulate the outstanding problems which we failed to solve.

A detailed historical description is not required for this purpose. It will suffice to enumerate the essential errors made and to indicate ways and means by which similar mistakes in the post-war period to come can be avoided.

The inter-war period was characterized by violent changes in the purchasing power of most of the world's currencies. The most outstanding case was, of course, the depreciation of the German mark to one trillionth of its original value. But all the countries of the world went through periods of inflation and deflation and at such different times and in such different degrees that international exchange stabilization was quite impossible.

Much could be said about the German experiences during the hyper-inflation of the mark ( 1920-1923) which gravely

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