03 April 2011

Betting on Foreign Exchange

In the previous chapter (see full table of contents), we listed "metals" as one type of commodity. Yet the precious metals have a special historical significance -- for most of the history of civilization they weren't something bought with money. They were money.

That situation, their commodification: change came slowly, in many steps. In this chapter, I'd like to trace those steps, because they are critical to understanding the crisis that is our central topic. We have come back again and again to the idea of "hard money" versus "soft." How did money get so chronically soft? For simplicity's sake, this will be a US-centric account of what is in fact a multinational story.

1. Bimetallism and the Wizard(s) of oz

2. No-Metallism

3. Gold Returns: Bretton Woods system, 1944-1971.

4. US Hegemony Wanes

5. Johnson to Nixon. The end of the gold window.

6. A “Tobin tax” and other dubious notions arise.

7. Back to Chicago: Leo Melamed, and how the Merc outflanked the CBOT

8. Everything floats against everything. What could go wrong?

9. British pound in 1992, East Asian currencies later in the decade.

10. Staggering proliferation and complexity of financial derivatives.

11. Does the FX market constrain central banks? How well or poorly?

12. Another angle on the CME/CBOT merger

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