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Handbook of the International Political Economy of Monetary Relations

Handbook of the International Political Economy of Monetary Relations

Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series

Edited by Thomas Oatley and W. Kindred Winecoff

This extensive Handbook provides an in-depth exploration of the political economy dynamics associated with the international monetary and financial systems. Leading experts offer a fresh take on research into the interaction between system structure, the self-interest of private firms, the political institutions within which governments make policy, and the ideas that influence beliefs about appropriate policy responses. Crucially they also assess how these factors have shaped the political economy of various facets of monetary and financial systems.

Chapter 4: The political economy of the contemporary dollar standard

Thomas Oatley

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, international politics, political economy, public policy


The world economy is based on a dollar standard. The dollar is the currency unit in which traded commodities - from aluminum to zinc - are priced on most of the world's commodity exchanges. The dollar is the currency most often used to settle international transactions, even when an American resident is not one of the parties. Almost half of the world's governments peg their currencies to the dollar, all governments accumulate dollars as foreign exchange reserves, and most hold on average more than half of their reserves in the dollar. The dollar is thus used by more people and by more governments for more purposes than any other currency. The world economy has rested on this dollar standard for almost 70 years. This dollar standard has powerfully shaped international politics in the post-war era. At the most basic, the dollar's central international role has enabled the United States (US) to extend power abroad - military as well as economic - at relatively low cost. For instance, the dollar standard facilitated US financing of the Vietnam War during the 1960s and the War on Terror during the 2000s. The US's reliance upon this exorbitant privilege to support its foreign policy objectives has contributed to the emergence of large and persistent global imbalances and associated financial instabilities that have driven the post-war agenda of international economic management.

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