Monday, November 17, 2008

Bretton Woods, a failure timeline.

Michael Moffit, in his 1983 book 'The World's Money - International Banking from Bretton Woods to the Brink of Insolvency'[1] has been very helpful this week. He presents an economic history that makes it clear as to why national economies started to come under pressure. This happened virtually as soon as their currencies were made fully convertible with each other under the obligations of the IMF's Article VIII. The Post-World-War-Two boom appeared to have much more to do with the stimulative boost of the Marshall Plan afterall.

1944 - Bretton Woods conference

1949 – Birth of Eurodollars

1945 – 1955. Europe’s capital markets remained largely closed to international capital flows. The US dollar was stable and other currencies were weak. Exchange controls in Europe were heavy. This combination discouraged speculation.

1950s – Growing concentration in international trade and investments leads to a small number of networks from which impressions and advice is received. This leads to a ‘common tilt’ in multinational corporations decisions and processes that courts instability in the global economy.

Multinational enterprises in the ordinary course of operations dispose of vast quantities of money across international exchanges….Most of that flow is concentrated in forty or fifty multinational networks that draw their impressions and their advice regarding the relative stability of different currencies from common sources – half a dozen banks, and even smaller number of financial journals, and an incestuous round of lunches and conferences. Viewed in the abstract, the situation is set up for disaster; a common tilt in the group becomes a source of irresistible pressure on any currency.”[2]

1955 – European nations make their currencies convertible to the US dollar (defacto) in response to pressure from the US.

1958 – Currency convertibility of European currencies announced. “The [global economic] system begins to sputter after 1958….”

Late 1950s – The Euromarket emerged. This new capital market entailed the free flow of U.S. dollar- denominated assets without supervision or control by any national government. It expanded substantially over the following three decades. The US and the UK rescinded capital controls on short-term capital flows. Other countries were compelled to rescind their own capital controls because they became too costly to sustain; especially in the light of the rapid growth of multinational corporations (MNCs). MNCs could simply avoid controls by borrowing and lending through foreign affiliates in the Euromarket. MNCs could also shift operations to other countries with looser restrictions so as to preserve their competitiveness. Countries that tried to retain tight controls faced capital outflows and a consequent loss of investment, employment and income.[3]

1960 – The US gold pledge weakened under pressure of the dollar overhang, leading promptly to speculation in the London gold market during the 1960 US presidential election. The volume of hot money circulating in the world’s money markets was increasing.

1960 – March. ‘Operation 40’ created by Allen Dulles (Director of the CIA under President Eisenhower) from the ‘group of 40’ of the US National Security Council. It was presided by vice-president Richard Nixon. The Cuban revolution had occurred the year before. This group was designed to respond to the threat of left wing governments in Latin America (in general) affecting US corporate holdings. Operation 40 not only was involved in sabotage operations but also, in fact, evolved into a team of assassins. Frank Sturgis, claimed: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents... We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time." [4]

1961 – On January 17th. Outgoing US President Eisenhower warned against the “acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military industrial complex.” Australia becomes viewed as a geopolitical asset by the US.

1964 – The exchange rate for sterling (one pound = $US2.80) became obsolete.

1967 – The British Pound was the first currency to succumb to international speculation.

1971 - Bretton Woods dismantled after the US dollar comes under heavy speculative attack.

[1] ‘The World’s Money – International banking from Bretton Woods to the brink of insolvency’ by Michael Moffitt. Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York. 1983. ISBN: 0-671-50596-3 Pbk.

[2] Harvard economist Raymond Vernon in his book ‘Storm Over the Multinationals’ (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1977), p.121. As quoted on page 76 of ‘The World’s Money – International banking from Bretton Woods to the brink of insolvency’ by Michael Moffitt. Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York. 1983. ISBN: 0-671-50596-3 Pbk.

[3] Global Neoliberalism and the “Fate of the State”
George DeMartino, Assistant Professor of International Economics
Graduate School of International Studies.University of Denver
Denver, CO 80207 USA. 23rd May 2002. [1(1)DeMartino.pdf]

[4] Allen Dulles' Operation 40 Brainchild


Anonymous said...

Gosh I'm glad to find you guys.

Knew of Barkley from Henwood's email talk when I first got on the magic box. Would still like to be there but the volume is too overwhelming.

Thanks for the blog.


Brenda Rosser said...

Glad you're here 'pms' (....being female I never thought I'd write such a sentence!).

Not sure where Barkley is at present. Will any 'Rosser' do?

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