Have you ever wondered why an American dollar buys so much and a Jamaican dollar buys so little? It’s a question we should ask some of those geniuses who run governments, attend important conferences and sign agreements that affect millions of lives around the world.
There was a time when a nation’s wealth depended on how much gold it had tucked away somewhere. Why gold? Ask King Croesus. I think he was the first ruler who decided gold was as good as – well – gold, and declared it the currency of his kingdom back in 550 BC (photo at right). That’s kind of how it worked until 1971 when the United States said the heck with it, or words to that effect. The “gold standard” was internationally formalized in 1944 when a group of big shots from various nations got together at a place called Bretton Woods in New Hampshire and decided that countries should “peg” their currency to the value of an ounce of gold. At that conference, the bigwigs also decided it would be OK for other countries to peg their currency to the value of the American dollar. So in 1971, a different gaggle of bigwigs agreed that they might as well just use the dollar as the benchmark and forget about the price of gold.
Yes, professor, I know that’s a gross oversimplification, but it will do for the purpose of this blog. The point is that what makes us think the U.S. dollar is still as good as gold? With the mint working overtime and trillions of U.S. dollars flooding the market, I have an uneasy feeling that it won’t be long before the money changers look around for something more substantial to sustain the global economy. The euro comes to mind, for example.
If I were one of those seers who get to decide these things, I would be exploring an entirely new way of greasing the wheels of commerce. For one thing, if I ran the United States, I would close the Federal Reserve Bank and have the American government manage its own money instead of paying a gang of bankers to do it. These banking bandits are doing such a lousy job that I don’t see how anyone could argue against firing them.
Then I would overhaul the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and all those other institutions that supposedly exist to facilitate international finance. I might even go so far as to have the United Nations issue a global currency that all nations could use. The various countries could have their own internal currencies, perhaps pegged to the value of the UN unit of exchange, based on universally accepted criteria.
Yes, I know I’m probably talking nonsense. But is it any more nonsensical than what’s going on in the world today? It seems to me that the financial system isn’t working, and – even more frightening – that it is vulnerable to wholesale plunder. Isn’t it time somebody did something to fix it?