THE United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods was a success because the representatives of forty-four nations had the wisdom to modify their individual and national preferences and to agree on a world-wide system of monetary and financial cooperation. Cooperation and multilateral clearing can be achieved only when a great majority of nations believe that the proposed system is to their advantage and this great majority can be won only if extreme positions, not acceptable to some of the prospective members, are sufficiently revised. A country cannot insist on its own brand of multilateral clearing because it needs the willingness of other countries to desist from discriminatory policies; and desist they will only if the price for multilateralism is not considered worse than bilateralism.
Different countries have different monetary interests: the capitalist economies face problems to which a planned economy can be indifferent; debtor and creditor countries have often conflicting viewpoints; gold holdings and gold production create a preference for the monetary use of gold while others fear the strait-jacket of gold; exchange control seems quite indispensable to one country and particularly obnoxious to the next; and cheap money policies at home are to some countries preferable to stable exchange rates.
To achieve a workable compromise between these different viewpoints and diverging interests is not easy. To achieve it through a combination of the constructive features of compet-