Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why keeping the dollar as the world's reserve currency is a massive drag on the struggling U.S. economy

France, Germany, China, and Russia are actively promoting the replacement of the U.S. dollar with an International Monetary Fund basket of currencies -- known as the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) -- as the global reserve currency. The United States is resisting. Both sides have their arguments backward.

The SDR should indeed replace the dollar as the dominant reserve currency if we want to eliminate the tremendous global trade and capital imbalances that have characterized the world for much of the past 100 years. This will not happen, however, until the United States forces the issue -- which it seems unwilling to do, perhaps for fear that it would signal a relative decline in the power of the U.S. economy.

But the United States should, in fact, support doing away with the dollar. For all the excited talk of politicians, journalists, and generals, a world without the dollar would mean faster growth and less debt for the United States, though at the expense of slower growth for parts of the rest of the world, especially Asia.

A French economist once told me that too often when policymakers think they are talking about economics they are actually talking about politics. A case in point, perhaps, is the claim first made in 1965 by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then France's finance minister, that the dollar's dominance as the global reserve currency gave the United States an "exorbitant privilege." more