Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy
By Jeffrey E. Garten
Harper, 2021, 448 pp.
Garten provides a richly detailed, character-driven account of the weekend in 1971 when U.S. President Richard Nixon and his advisers suspended the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into a fixed quantity of gold and pulled the plug on the Bretton Woods international monetary system. It is not an overstatement to assert, as the author does, that this weekend at Camp David was a historic turning point for the global economy. Drawing on archival sources and participant interviews, Garten recounts the unfolding drama, which inaugurated an era of greater exchange-rate flexibility and thereby opened the door to freer international capital mobility. At the same time, the demise of the Bretton Woods system changed some aspects of the global monetary and financial order less radically than anticipated at the time. In particular, the dollar, which under the Bretton Woods system enjoyed the “exorbitant privilege” of being the sun around which other currencies orbited, remains the dominant international and reserve currency even today.