Tuesday, Sept 1, 2009
Like the Chinese, the folks at Disney World peg their currency to the dollar. Hand them $1 U.S. and you receive one Disney dollar, complete with a picture of Mickey Mouse or his friends, plus the signature of Disney’s official treasurer, Scrooge McDuck.
That transaction now seems superfluous. The U.S. dollar is rapidly transforming into a Mickey Mouse currency. This has led to a rising call for the creation of an alternative to the dollar in the form of a new world currency. It would be an enormous mistake to discount these calls as a sideshow. The odds of a world currency emerging have never been higher.
The calls are coming from many corners. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz chaired a United Nations panel that recommended the creation of a global reserve currency. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, proposed that the International Monetary Fund take over the global leadership role traditionally ceded to the U.S. And Russian President Dmitry Medvedev handed out minted coin samples of a new world currency at the recent Group of Eight meeting in Italy.
These calls are worth paying attention to for a number of reasons. The arguments for a world currency are much better than you might think. An alternative to the dollar clearly has a promising market that can develop even if it is opposed by the U.S. And the idea of a world currency is most attractive to those who devoutly believe in multilateral institutions and the Canon of Lord Keynes — beliefs that are hardly in short supply in Barack Obama’s White House.