Who Caused the Currency Wars?

The “currency wars” so much in the news these days are merely a skirmish. The big problem is that the core of the world’s financial system has become unstable, and reckless risk-taking will once again lead to great collateral damage.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world is on the brink of a nasty confrontation over exchange rates – now spilling over to affect trade policy (America’s flirtation with protectionism), attitudes towards capital flows (new restrictions in Brazil, Thailand, and South Korea), and public support for economic globalization (rising anti-foreigner sentiment almost everywhere). Who is to blame for this situation getting so out of control, and what is likely to happen next?

The issue is usually framed in terms of whether some countries are “cheating” by holding their exchange rates at an undervalued rate, thus boosting their exports and limiting imports relative to what would happen if their central banks floated the local currency freely.

The main culprit in this conventional view is China, although the International Monetary Fund is a close second. But, considered more broadly, the seriousness of today’s situation is primarily due to Europe’s refusal to reform global economic governance, compounded by years of political mismanagement and self-deception in the United States.

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