Currencies and Crises by Paul Krugman

By Paul Krugman

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While views differ on how successful these institutions have been in preventing or managing international financial instability, the scope and scale of their activities have clearly grown over time. Some observers feel that the role of IFIs must continue to expand, reflecting the new realities of an interdependent world economy. Eventually the international financial system will gravitate towards a highly centralized structure in which a single central bank sets monetary policy for the entire world, a single supervisory body sets the rules and regulations for financial markets, and a single entity serves as a lender of last resort.

National central banks are expected to serve as a lender of last resort in these situations, but if most of the assets 34 Evolution of the international monetary and financial system and liabilities on an institution’s balance sheet are denominated in foreign currencies, the central bank’s ability to play this role could be severely constrained. The large volumes of short-term capital that can move into or out of a country at a moment’s notice also pose a challenge in this regard. Similar complications arise in terms of regulation.

Efforts to accelerate the consolidation process, therefore, through government intervention and legislated measures are likely to impose sizeable costs on the global economy. Second, while underlying economic forces may eventually push the global economy towards a centralized international monetary system, these forces appear to be operating very slowly. For example, although the Canadian and US economies are highly integrated, there is little (if any) evidence that the Canadian financial system is being effectively ‘dollarized’ or that Canadian capital markets are being drawn into the US vortex.

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