Bretton Woods III: a new world monetary order

In 1944, as WWII was coming to an end, the Bretton Woods system of monetary management was established. It set the rules for financial relations between countries, for their central banks and governments. It also created the IMF, the World Bank and WTO. This week, Zoltan Pozsar, Credit Suisse’s short-term interest rate strategist, published a note about a new world monetary order, which he called the “birth of Bretton Woods III”.

In his words, he see this as, “a new world (monetary) order centered around commodity-based currencies in the East that will likely weaken the eurodollar system and also contribute to inflationary forces in the West.” What does that mean for us? And what part might cryptocurrencies play in it?

Bretton Woods I was based on a gold-based system where the U.S. dollar dominated and was freely convertible into gold. This changed dramatically in 1971 when the US had to change its currency, “so that the dollar was free-floating and backed by the full faith and credit of the government,” not gold.

Bretton Woods II then became the model. In this, the dollar still dominated, but in a system that mostly uses “inside money.” Inside money is someone else’s liability, while outside money is nobody’s liability. This is why we have a system that is largely based on debt. For example, when China holds US Treasury bonds that is inside money. When Russia sells USD to buy gold, that is outside money. It makes things pretty complicated when you factor in the full package of economic sanctions against Russia, and add in the fact that China holds massive amounts of seizable, U.S.-based inside money. It could sell its US Treasury bonds to “fund the purchase of “subprime” Russian commodities,” writes George Kaloudis in Coindesk, but it would also give China control over inflation. Such a move could also lead to commodity shortages and a recession in the West.

Pozsar’s note suggests there is a “new confiscation risk associated with US inside money,” that could spark a new monetary regime, as the world turns to focus on outside money, such as gold and other commodities, as countries try to boost their reserves. Or they might turn to cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin.

At the end of his note, Pozsar wrote, “After this war is over, “money” will never be the same again…

…and Bitcoin (if it still exists then) will probably benefit from all this.”

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