The Bretton Woods System and the gold standard


Most of the states tried to restore the gold criterion after World War I, but it had been wholly collapsed during the Great Depression in 1930s. Some economic experts said comply with the gilded criterion had prohibited pecuniary governments from increasing the money supply quickly plenty to retrieve the economic systems. Therefore, the representatives of most of the universe ‘s prima states met at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944 to make a new international pecuniary system. The representatives had decided to associate the universe currencies to the dollar since the United States accounted for over half of the universe ‘s fabrication capacity and held most of the universe ‘s gold during that clip.

At the concluding, they agreed should be exchangeable into gold at $ 35 per ounce.

What is Bretton Woods System?

The Bretton Woods system is frequently refer to the international pecuniary criterion that being used from the terminal of World War II until 1971. The beginning of the name is taken from the locale of the conference in 1944 that had established the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) and World Bank.

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Harmonizing to the history, the Bretton Woods system was the first case of pecuniary criterion that had been to the full negotiated in order to command currency dealingss among to the full independent provinces. The criterion was created to unite binding legal duties with many-sided decision-making conducted through an international organisation — the IMF, endowed with limited supranational authorization. During the running of the strategy, it was extremely depended on the United States ‘ penchants and policies.

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The International Monetary Fund was officially established on 27th December 1945, when the 29 states who had participated in the conference of Bretton Woods signed the Articles of Agreement. It commenced its fiscal operations on 1st March 1947. The IMF is an international organisation, which consists of 183 member states today. The aims of the IMF are to advance international pecuniary cooperation by set uping a planetary monitoring bureau that supervises, consults, and collaborates on pecuniary jobs. It facilitates universe trade enlargement and thereby contributes to the publicity and care of high degrees of employment and existent income. Furthermore, the IMF ensures exchange rate stableness to avoid competitory exchange depreciation. It eliminates foreign exchange limitations and aids in making systems of payment for many-sided trade. Furthermore, member states with disequilibrium in their balance of payments are provided with the chance to rectify their jobs by doing the fiscal resources of the IMF available for them.

On the other manus, World Bank is the most important beginning of fiscal assistance for developing states in the universe. It provides about $ 16 billion of loans to its client states per twelvemonth. It utilizes its fiscal resources, extremely trained staff, and extended cognition base to assist each developing state to travel towards the way of stable, sustainable, and just growing in the order to contend against poorness. Its ends are to extinguish the worst signifiers of poorness and to better life criterions. It supports the reconstituting procedure of economic systems and provides capital for productive investings. Furthermore, it encourages foreign direct investing by doing warrants or accepting partnerships with investors. The World Bank ‘s purposes are to maintain payments in developing states balanced and to further international trade. It is active in more than 100 developing economic systems. It forms aid schemes by collaborating with authorities bureaus, non-governmental establishments and private endeavors. It offers fiscal services, analytical, consultative, and capacity edifice.

The conference was organized in the American resort small town of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Treasuries of the United Kingdom and the United States had been culminated the pecuniary criterion for two and a half old ages. Even though the conference was attended by all 44 allied states, plus one impersonal authorities — Argentina, the conference treatment was dominated by two rival programs developed — Harry Dexter White of the U.S. Treasury and John Maynard Keynes of Britain severally. The ultimate via media was much closer to White ‘s program than to that of Keynes, which reflected the overpowering power of the United States although World War II was about came to the terminal.

Although the differences between the White and Keynes programs was rather big during that clip, particularly with sing to the issue of future entree to international liquidness in retrospect it is their similarities instead than their differences that appear most dramatic. In fact, there was much common land among all the take parting authoritiess at Bretton Woods. All agreed that the pecuniary pandemonium of the interwar period had yielded several valuable lessons. All were determined to avoid reiterating what they perceived to be the mistakes of the yesteryear. Their consensus of judgement was reflected straight in the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund.

The four points being stand out

Negotiators by and large agreed that, to them, once and for all proved that the exchange rate during the two universe wars and the cardinal defects of unrestrained flexibleness. 30 old ages of the twentieth century is considered a floating exchange rate system has to halt trade and investing, promoting the destabilizing guess and competitory devaluations. However, a more extremist economic policies, the authorities at the same clip to travel back to the nineteenth century, the classical gold standard theoretical account of a lasting fixed rate. Policy shapers understand the want to retain the right to necessitate the alteration of the juncture as a pecuniary value. Therefore a via media between, either freely drifting or irrevocably fixed rates polarity choice – some agreements may be given against any of the defects of both universes.

What emerged is a ‘link rate ‘ or ‘adjustable nog currency system, besides known as the par value system. Members of the duty to declare par value ( 1 ‘hanging ‘ ) is the national currency, and to step in in currency markets to restrict exchange rate fluctuations in the maximal net income ( a ‘band ‘ ) 1 % above or below para, but they besides maintain rights and, where necessary, in conformity with in agreement processs, to alter their face value to rectify the cardinal instability ‘in its balance of payments equilibrium. Unfortunately, the basic constructs of instability, but the key of the par value system of operation, has ne’er explained in any item – a ill-famed skip, will finally come back in subsequent old ages plagued the system.

All the Governments that, if there is no free drifting exchange rate, states need a sufficient warrant of currency militias. Negotiators do non see it necessary to alter in any cardinal system of the gilded exchange criterion had been inherited from the interwar old ages. International mobility is still chiefly gold or exchangeable currency states portion, straight or indirectly, for gold, ( ‘Gold Exchange ‘ ) . In peculiar, they are unwilling to alter, whether in dollars or its gold militias, which at the clip equivalent of three quarters of the universe, all of the value of the cardinal function of cardinal bank gold. Negotiators besides agreed, but a shortage of liquidness in some states the desirableness of extra beginnings. The biggest job is whether the beginning should be made as Keynes, is the same one universe cardinal bank will be able to make new militias ( harmonizing to Keynes, this may be the alleged Bancor ) , or more limited adoption mechanism, white preferred.

A contemplation of what concessions the United States occur

Subscription and the IMF, which is embedded in the quota system itself is merely a national currency and each signed a fixed pool of more of the gold. Member is assigned a quota, loosely reflect each state ‘s comparative economic importance and the duty to pay the same sum of subscription financess. Subscription is to pay 25 per centum of gold or currency exchangeable into gold ( efficaciously U.S. dollar, which was the lone currency the cardinal bank is still straight gilded convertible ) and members of its ain financess accounted for 75 per centum. Each member was entitled to a short period of modesty required by the size of quotas by its determination to the sum of foreign currency.

All the Government has agreed that the demand to avoid the sort of economic war 30 old ages specific to the 10-year return. Some of the regulations adhering model demands to guarantee that states will get rid of the bing limitations on foreign exchange control, currency convertibility, return to a many-sided payments system free. Therefore, in rule, members engaged in forbidden behavior or prejudiced currency exchange controls, merely two existent exclusions. First of all, exchangeable duties extend to current international minutess merely. Governments do non modulate money to purchase and sell goods or services trade. But they have no duty, to avoid the regulative capital history minutess. In fact, to promote them to do a formal capital controls to keep external balance confronting a possible instability ‘hot money ‘ influxs. Second, the duty can be deferred exchange, if a member so in a post-war ‘chosen transitional period. Members deferred their duty to be known as the convertibility of Article XIV of the State ; members accepted their alleged Article VIII position. One of the maps assigned to the IMF to supervise the direction of currency exchange codification of jurisprudence.

Negotiators agreed that there is a job of international cooperation on the pecuniary system of the demand for the Forum. Currency in the problem between the universe wars, it was felt, has been greatly affected by any given procedure or governmental audience mechanism between the instances, increased. In the post-war epoch, the fund itself will supply such a forum – in fact, a genuinely historic accomplishment. No more break the way of a state ‘s determination to apportion vote rights among the authorities, one ballot footing, but a considerable proportion of the quota. One tierce of all the IMF quota, foremost of all, the United States is in itself a warrant of future decision-making and effectual veto power.

With these four points, we can reason that the definition of the Bretton Woods system is a pecuniary criterion is the combination of an unchanged gold exchange, a centralised pool of gold and national currencies, and an exchange rate system of adjustable nog. IMF was the centre of the government and it had to transport out three essentual maps every bit stated as below:

  • Regulatory – administer the regulations regulating currency values and convertibility,
  • Financial – supply auxiliary liquidness
  • Consultative – provide a forum for cooperation among authoritiess.

Under the Bretton Woods system, cardinal Bankss of states other than the United States had to execute the undertaking of keeping fixed exchange rates between their currencies and the dollar by step ining in foreign exchange markets. If a state ‘s currency was excessively high relation to the dollar, its cardinal bank would sell its currency in exchange for dollars in order to cut down the value of its currency. Conversely, if the value of a state ‘s money was excessively low, the state would purchase its ain currency in order to raise the monetary value.

The Bretton Woods system had been lasted until 1971. The rising prices in the United States and a turning American trade shortage of that clip were deprecating the value of the dollar. Americans urged both Germany and Japan which had favourable payments balances to appreciate their currencies. But those states were loath to make so, since raising the value of their currencies would raise the monetary values for their goods and ache their exports. Finally, the United States abandoned the fixed value of the dollar and allowed it to “ drift ” , that is to fluctuate against other currencies. This caused the dollar fell dramatically. World leaders sought to resuscitate the Bretton Woods system with the alleged Smithsonian Agreement in 1971, but failed. By 1973, the United States and other states agreed to let exchange rates to drift.

Economists named the ensuing system as “ managed float government ” , which means that even though exchange rates for most currencies float, cardinal Bankss still can step in to forestall crisp alterations. As in 1971, states with big trade excesss frequently sell their ain currencies in an attempt to forestall them from appreciating and forestall them from aching exports. Conversely, states with big trade shortages frequently buy their ain currencies in order to forestall depreciation, which could increase domestic monetary values. But there are bounds to what can be accomplished through intercession, particularly for states with big trade shortages. Finally, a state that intervenes to back up its currency may consume its international militias, doing it unable to go on buttressing the currency and potentially go forthing it unable to run into its international duties.

Advantage and Disadvantage of Bretton Woods System

The benefits of the Bretton Woods system were a important enlargement of international trade and investing every bit good as a noteworthy macroeconomic public presentation: the rate of rising prices was lower on norm for every industrialised state except Japan than during the period of drifting exchange rates that followed, the existent per capita income growing was higher than in any pecuniary government since 1879 and the involvement rates were low and stable. It has to be noted that taking economic experts nowadays argue “ whether macroeconomic public presentation stableness was responsible for the successes of Bretton Woods, or the contention. ”

Under the gilded exchange criterion, a state has to turn to the job by deflating the domestic economic system when faced with chronic Balance Payment shortages. Before World War II, European states frequently used this policy, in peculiar the Great Britain. Even though few currencies were exchangeable into gold, policy shapers thought that currencies should be backed by gold and volitionally adopted deflationary policies after World War I. Deflationary policy is non the lone option when faced with BP shortages. Devaluation is accepted in Bretton Woods. The adjustable nog was viewed as a huge betterment over the gilded exchange criterion with fixed para. Currencies were exchangeable into gold, but unlike the gold exchange criterion, states had the ability to alter par values. For this ground, Keynes described the Bretton Woods system as “ the exact antonym of the gilded criterion. ”

On the contrary, failings of the system were capital motion limitations throughout the Bretton Woods old ages ( authoritiess needed to restrict capital flows in order to hold a certain extent of control ) every bit good as the fact that paras were merely adjusted after bad and fiscal crises. Another negative facet was the force per unit area Bretton Woods put on the United States, which was non willing to provide the sum of gold the remainder of the universe demanded, because the gold militias declined and eroded the assurance in the dollar.

In the post-World War II scenario, states devastated by the war needed tremendous resources for Reconstruction. Imports went up and their shortages were financed by pulling down their militias. At that clip, the US dollar was the chief constituent in the currency militias of the remainder of the universe, and those militias had been spread outing as a effect of the US running a continued balance of payments shortage ; other states were willing to keep those dollars as a modesty plus because they were committed to keep convertibility between their currency and the dollar.

The job was that if the short-term dollar liabilities of the US continued to increase in relation to its retentions of gold, so the belief in the credibleness of the US committedness to change over dollars into gold at the fixed monetary value would be eroded. The cardinal Bankss would therefore hold an overpowering inducement to change over the bing dollar retentions into gold, and that would, in bend, force the US to give up its committedness. This was the Triffin Dilemma after Robert Triffin, the chief critic of the Bretton Woods system. Triffin suggested that the IMF should be turned into a ‘deposit bank ‘ for cardinal Bankss and a new ‘reserve plus ‘ be created under the control of the IMF. In 1967, gold was displaced by making the Particular Drawing Rights ( SDRs ) , besides known as ‘paper gold ‘ , in the IMF with the purpose of increasing the stock of international militias. Originally defined in footings of gold, with 35 SDRs being equal to one ounce of gold ( the dollar-gold rate of the Bretton Woods system ) , it has been redefined several times since 1974. At present, it is deliberate daily as the leaden amount of the values in dollars of four currencies ( euro, dollar, Nipponese hankering, and lb sterling ) of the five states ( France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US ) . It derives its strength from IMF members being willing to utilize it as a modesty currency and utilize it as a agency of payment between cardinal Bankss to interchange for national currencies. The original installments of SDRs were distributed to member states harmonizing to their quota in the Fund ( the quota was loosely related to the state ‘s economic importance as indicated by the value of its international trade ) .

Structural job besides exist in this system. Over clip the universe economic system grew and needed more liquidness, which meant that US had to keep increasing trade shortages. But the US was non able to devaluate the dollar. The dollar was the numeraire of the system, for case, it was the criterion by allowing other currencies to nail down with. Consequently, the U.S. did non hold the power to put the exchange rate between the dollar and any other currency. Changing the value of dollar in footings of gold has no existent consequence, because the values of other currencies were pegged to the dollar. This job would non hold existed if most of other currencies were pegged to gold. However, none of these currencies were pegged to gold because they were non exchangeable into gold with the limited supply of gold.

The dislocation of the Bretton Woods system was preceded by many events, such as the devaluation of the lb in 1967, flight from dollars to gold in 1968 taking to the creative activity of a two-tiered gold market ( with the official rate at $ 35 per ounce and the private rate market determined ) and eventually in August 1971, the British demand that US guarantee the gold value of its dollar retentions. This led to the US determination to give up the nexus between the dollar and gold.

Crisis of Bretton Woods System

The digesting instabilities of payments between the Western industrialized countriesIn the sixtiess and 1970s had weakened the Bretton Woods System. The chief job was that one national currency which is the U.S. dollar had to be an international modesty currency at the same clip. This made the national pecuniary and financial policy of the United States free from external economic force per unit areas, while earnestly impacting those external economic systems. The U.S. was forced to run shortages in their balance of payments in order to guarantee international liquidness which had been caused universe rising prices. In the 1960s, there was a tally of really inflationary policy which limited the convertibility of the U.S. dollar since the militias were deficient to run into the demand for their currency. Yet, the other member states were non willing to accept the high rising prices rates that the par value system would hold caused and “ the dollar ended up being weak and unwanted, merely as predicted by Gresham ‘s jurisprudence: Bad money drives out good money. ” The Bretton Woods System had collapsed. Another cardinal job was the delayed accommodation of the paras to alterations in the economic environment of the states. It was ever a great political hazard for a authorities to set the para and “ each alteration in the par value of a major currency tended to go a crisis for the whole system. ” This led to a deficiency of trust and destabilizing guesss.

Collapse of Bretton Woods System

Collapse of Bretton Woods System was dissolved between 1968 and 1973. U.S. President Richard Nixon announced to suspend the dollar ‘s convertibility into gilded temporarily in August of 1971. The dollar had struggled throughout 1960s within the para established at Bretton Woods which showed the symptom of the terminal of the system. There was an effort to restore the fixed exchange rates but it was failed. The major currencies began to drift against each other in the March of 1973. At the same clip, the par value system was abandoned and the member states agreed on allowing different sorts of ways for finding the exchange value of a state ‘s money. Started from the dislocation of the Bretton Woods System, IMF members have the freedom to choose any signifier of exchange agreement as they wish except nail downing their currency to gold.

Most of the states afraid of the dislocation of the Bretton Woods System would do the terminal of the rapid growing period. But the transmutation of the pecuniary criterion to drifting exchange rates made it easier for economic systems to set to more expensive oil particularly during October of 1973 — the monetary value all of a sudden started lifting. The IMF adapted its loaning instruments in order to react to the challenges created by the oil monetary value dazes of the seventiess. It besides set up the first of two oil installations in order to help oil importers to get the better of the awaited current history shortages and rising prices in the face of higher oil monetary values.

IMF sought to react to the balance of payments shortages faced by many hapless states by supplying concessional funding called the Trust Fund since the mid of 1970s. IMF created a new concessional loan plan called the Structural Adjustment Facility in March of 1986. In December of 1987, the Structural Adjustment Facility was taken over by the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility.


As a decision, even though the Bretton Woods System of 1944 with its fixed exchange rates had been collapsed, its ends are still as valid today as they have been in the past. Most of the big developed states allow their currencies to drift freely presents and merely supply and demand are the determiners of its worth. The value of the currencies can be influenced by purchasing and selling their ain currency besides to nail down the value of the money to one of the chief currencies.

What are the deductions of the Bretton Woods experience for future international pecuniary dealingss? The most of import deduction is that merely stabilising exchange rates is non sufficient to automatically present the benefits trumpeted by the advocates of such an enterprise. It is important that national economic policies, for instant, budget shortages, and economic results, for instant, rising prices, converge to a certain extent before states decide to repair exchange rates. However, a short term divergency of policies is non damaging for the operation of such a system ; it is instead a believable committedness to fixed exchange rates that ensures its stableness. It can be concluded that ambitious international pecuniary reforms like the Bretton Woods System can merely work if they are integrated into broad economic and political convergence. With this fact in head it is easy to understand how far the universe with its assorted states and life criterions, policies, and economic systems is from a “ new system of Bretton Woods ” , that can get the better of its old failings.

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The Bretton Woods System and the gold standard. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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