Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Thomas Oatley and W. Kindred Winecoff
Chapter 6: The Triffin dilemma, the Lucas paradox, and monetary politics in the twenty-first century
The MacGuffin in Ian Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger is James Bond's ability to save the international monetary system. 007 is tasked with stopping the illegal export of gold from Britain in order to protect the value of the British pound sterling. The significance of this would have been present in the minds of contemporary readers. In 1956 Britain's capital controls were failing, and the United States leveraged this fact to require British withdrawal from Egypt during the Suez Crisis. In exchange, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended emergency finance to Britain in 1957 and the United Kingdom (UK) established currency convertibility the next year. This was the first major lending program in the IMF's history, and illustrated the geopolitical value that came from control of the international monetary system. As Fleming's story progresses, so does the threat, which expands to include the theft of the United States' gold supply at Fort Knox by the Soviet agent Auric Goldfinger. Such a heist would destabilize the Bretton Woods system of pegged exchange rates and controlled capital movements that was contingent upon the United States (US) government's ability to maintain the link between dollar and gold. Without gold backing the value of the dollar would decline precipitously, the international monetary system based on it would collapse, and the development of the Western post-war economy would be in jeopardy.
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