The International Monetary System: A Time of Turbulence

By Jacob S. Dreyer; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research | Go to book overview

National Financial Policies in an Interdependent World: Background for Discussion

Jacob S. Dreyer

One of the frequent lines of criticism directed at the monetary arrangements that emerged in the wake of the demise of the Bretton Woods system of "stable but adjustable" exchange rates has been the absence of discernible rules of the new game. Aside from verbal and printed squabbles about whether or not the post-1973 international monetary relations are sufficiently codified to deserve being called a system, it is beyond dispute that the rules spelling out international responsibilities in the monetary sphere (not quite clear-cut even during the Golden Age of Bretton Woods) have become much looser since the inception of floating exchange rates.

One reflection of looser-that is, less clearly defined and adhered to-rules has been a diminution in the scope, frequency, and intensity of international coordination of economic policies. Two broad explanations for the loosening of the rules and the attendant curtailment of international coordination of policies have been advanced in public discussions, each coupled with a different evaluation of the need for international coordination in the new monetary environment.

In one view, the loosening of the rules is ascribed to what is perceived as aborted attempts to replace the Bretton Woods agreement with a comparably tight and comprehensive international monetary constitution suited to the new economic and financial environment. What was endorsed in Jamaica in 1976 does not, in this view, constitute an institutional framework highly enough organized for nations' rights and obligations to be realistically defined. Consequently, exponents of this view argue, it should come as no surprise that incentives for international monetary cooperation as well as penalties for noncooperation have become much diluted, resulting in less coordinated national policies and, hence, in more unstable economic and financial conditions.

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