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The Myth of Bretton Woods

Author: Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics
July 29, 2014
Wall Street Journal


This month marks the 70th anniversary of the historic United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., today known simply as Bretton Woods. The conference, attended by 44 allied nations in the wake of the D-Day landings at Normandy, established the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and a global fixed exchange-rate system based on the U.S. dollar and gold. The latter lasted until 1971, when President Nixon ended the last remnants of the dollar's gold convertibility.

The name of the remote New Hampshire town has become virtually synonymous with enlightened, cooperative globalization. After all, the quarter-century post-World War II "Bretton Woods era" was marked by robust economic recovery and the formalization of a multilateral trading system.

It is thus no surprise that in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis world leaders were calling for "a new Bretton Woods" to restore economic order.

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