SEEN in retrospect, the world's currency record of the last two decades is most curious. Its shifting pattern is rather like that of a formal dance, with alternating movements of union and dispersal, and with each participant in turn taking every possible rôle. Twice during this period the world has had and has lost what was in effect a single currency, for whatever the differences of unit or of nomenclature, national currencies that are linked at fixed parities to the same metallic standard constitute for practical purposes a single medium of exchange; and both in 1914 and in 1927 the exceptions to this system were few and unimportant. In the early post-war period, and again recently, the exceptions have been the rule. Now there is a renewed movement to recapture the lost currency stability. The world is again feeling its way towards a world currency, but still doubtful whether it will be found through a system substantially the same as it has known before or one profoundly different.
No less notable than the main alternating movements have been the changing rôles of individual countries. Of all the belligerents in the Great War, the United States alone retained its gold currency unimpaired. But in October 1933 it initiated, more voluntarily and deliberately than any other country, a policy of drastic depreciation; while since then it has returned again to a definite gold parity, which has now been maintained for over a year and a half. Germany's old currency lost all its value. That of France lost four-fifths and that of Italy lost three-quarters of the old parities. But in recent years they have endured the most destructive deflation rather than change them again. Great Britain was the first principal belligerent whose currency had been forced off gold to restore it to its old parity, without (as in the case of Germany) a liquidation of the past; now again it is off gold and the leader of those reluctant to return to it.
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