European Leaders Speak of Return to Bretton Woods

There is a saying on Wall Street that “markets make opinions.” That means that when markets are trending higher, there is talk about how innovation and technology have made us prosperous as a people; when markets are falling, we talk of how we have lost our competitive edge. It’s similar to Vegas gamblers. When they are winning, they have a system. When they are losing, they are unlucky. 

When the inflationary boom is raging, politics love to talk about how the people deserve this newfound prosperity they are experiencing. When the deflationary contraction comes, we talk of lost virtue. The market becomes a drought in everyone’s mind and the politicians become the priests of the Rain God come to tell us we must repent. So I can’t say I’m particularly surprised to see that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and European Central Bank President Claude Trichet have recently been calling for a return to the first Bretton Woods agreement. As those of you know who have read my book, Bretton Woods was the agreement reached after World War II whereby the United States would redeem gold at $35 an ounce and the rest of the world would use the US Dollar as their reserve currency. 

Ah, the excesses of paper money. I guess when the wheels come off the wagon, it’s suddenly cool for Trichet to say that, what the world really needs is “”discipline: macroeconomic discipline, monetary discipline, market discipline.” That’s akin to a drunk saying in the midst of his hangover that he really needs to stop drinking. Yes, the world does need monetary discipline, but it does not possess the world power to impose it on itself and the central bankers of the world are happy to oblige it along it’s merry way. Although it is possible that there is more here than just giving a nod to virtue in the aftermath of the credit orgy; it is possible that this may be the early murmuring of an actual move away from the US Dollar and towards a new financial order. As I mentioned in this blog on October 13th, a move away from the Dollar is inevitable at some point, and it’s possible that the European leaders would like to stop the death of 1000 cuts that is propping up the dollar. Perhaps they’d like to be rid of the current system sooner rather than later. 

Wouldn’t it be a coup for the Euro if it became redeemable in gold? That would assure it that it would become the next reserve currency in the world. Such a move would spell the end of the US empire, because we could no longer print the money needed to run it and traditionally the Europeans have wanted the US to be strong as a protection from Russia. But they may see the writing on the wall and figure that the US Dollar is going to collapse anyway and that Russia is not nearly as strong as it once was. Perhaps they are considering a move towards become great powers on their own merits once against rather than merely a protectorate of the United States. 

It certainly would be, as the Chinese curse says, “interesting times” indeed.

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