Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System

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Overview


For more than half a century, the U.S. dollar has been not just America's currency but the world's. It is used globally by importers, exporters, investors, governments and central banks alike. Nearly three-quarters of all $100 bills circulate outside the United States. The dollar holdings of the Chinese government alone come to more than $1,000 per Chinese resident.

This dependence on dollars, by banks, corporations and governments around the world, is a source of strength for the United States. It is, as a critic of U.S. policies once put it, America's "exorbitant privilege." However, recent events have raised concerns that this soon may be a privilege lost. Among these have been the effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession: high unemployment, record federal deficits, and financial distress. In addition there is the rise of challengers like the euro and China's renminbi. Some say that the dollar may soon cease to be the world's standard currency--which would depress American living standards and weaken the country's international influence.

In Exorbitant Privilege, one of our foremost economists, Barry Eichengreen, traces the rise of the dollar to international prominence over the course of the 20th century. He shows how the greenback dominated internationally in the second half of the century for the same reasons--and in the same way--that the United States dominated the global economy. But now, with the rise of China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies, America no longer towers over the global economy. It follows, Eichengreen argues, that the dollar will not be as dominant. But this does not mean that the coming changes will necessarily be sudden and dire--or that the dollar is doomed to lose its international status. Challenging the presumption that there is room for only one true global currency--either the dollar or something else--Eichengreen shows that several currencies have shared this international role over long periods. What was true in the distant past will be true, once again, in the not-too-distant future.

The dollar will lose its international currency status, Eichengreen warns, only if the United States repeats the mistakes that led to the financial crisis and only if it fails to put its fiscal and financial house in order. The greenback's fate hinges, in other words, not on the actions of the Chinese government but on economic policy decisions here in the United States.

Incisive, challenging and iconoclastic, Exorbitant Privilege, which was shortlisted for the FT Goldman Sachs 2011 Best Business Book of the Year, is a fascinating analysis of the changes that lie ahead. It is a challenge, equally, to those who warn that the dollar is doomed and to those who regard its continuing dominance as inevitable.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199753789
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/7/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,400,107
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Political Science and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. His previous books include The European Economy Since 1945, Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods, Capital Flows and Crises, and Financial Crises and What to Do About Them. He has written for the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2, "Emergence"
Chapter 3, "Dominance"
Chapter 4, "The Rise of a Rival"
Chapter 5, "Crisis"
Chapter 6, "Today"
Chapter 7, "Tomorrow"

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Professor Barry Eichengreen┬┐s exploration of the dollar┬┐s reserv

    Professor Barry Eichengreen’s exploration of the dollar’s reserve
    currency role could be merely an interesting history of currencies and
    repositories of value – from wampum and whelk shells to credit default
    swaps – all mapped out from Bretton Woods to the Maastricht Treaty to
    China’s looming role and beyond. But Eichengreen accounts for more than
    history as he expertly guides readers through the maze of the
    international monetary system. getAbstract finds that unresolved issues
    in world markets give this exposition considerable contemporary bite.
    Eichengreen argues solidly that the threats to the dollar’s
    international reserve status are real enough, but says all signs are
    that the dollar will endure as the first among rivals, even if other
    regional kingpins arise. He seems to believe that, despite its various
    crises and challenges, the dollar will remain dominant – but, in the
    end, he ducks a definitive judgment and concludes that its fate is in
    American hands and not in those of the Chinese or other international competitors.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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