A World of Multiple Reserve Currencies

The world economy of the twenty-first century is becoming more multipolar, and there is no reason why the same should not be true of its international monetary system. In the end, that will be a good thing.

BERKELEY – The competition for reserve-currency status is conventionally portrayed as a winner-take-all game. There is room, in this view, for just one full-fledged international currency. The only question is which national currency will capture the role.

Market logic, it is argued, dictates this result. For importers and exporters, quoting prices in the same currency – say, the dollar – as other importers and exporters avoids confusing one’s customers. For central banks, holding reserves in the same currency as other central banks means holding the most liquid asset. With everyone else buying, selling, and holding dollars, it pays to do the same, since markets in dollar-denominated assets will be the deepest.

While it is always possible that there could come a tipping point at which everyone migrates from one currency to another, the network-based nature of the international monetary system, it is said, leaves room for only one true international unit.

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