The Dollar Privilege

The dollar is the world’s primary reserve currency, accounting for $6.7 trillion in foreign reserves. This has given the United States what some have called “an exorbitant privilege,” allowing it to borrow easily and to levy painful sanctions. But could it lose this status?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Roger W. Ferguson Jr.
    Steven A. Tananbaum Distinguished Fellow for International Economics
  • Sebastian Mallaby
    Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics

Show Notes

In 1944, representatives from forty-four nations devised a new global financial system, anointing the U.S. dollar as the leading international reserve currency. Since then, the dollar has enjoyed the immense privilege of being the currency of choice for international trade and global reserves. This status allows it to borrow money easily, bounce back quickly from financial crises, and levy painful sanctions against other countries.  

In this episode, an economist and a former vice chairman for the U.S. Federal Reserve break down the real and symbolic benefits of the dollar’s status. They also assess the potential for competitors, such as the Chinese renminbi, the euro, and even cryptocurrency, to displace it. 


CFR Resources


The Dollar: The World’s Currency,” Anshu Siripurapu


The National Debt Dilemma,” James McBride, Andrew Chatzky, and Anshu Siripurapu


Good News! The Federal Reserve Is Surviving the Trump Era,” Sebastian Mallaby


The Dangerous Myth We Still Believe About the Lehman Brothers Bust,” Sebastian Mallaby


Tracking Currency Manipulation,” Brad W. Setser and Dylan Yalbir


Weaker Dollar Means More Dollar Reserves,” Brad W. Setser


From Roger Ferguson


What Ex-Fed Governor Roger Ferguson Learned on 9/11,” Fortune


Read More


The dollar’s international role: An ‘exorbitant privilege’?” Brookings Institution


US debt to China: how big is it and why is it important?South China Morning Post


Will bitcoin end the dollar’s reign?Financial Times


Dollar Hegemony Is Under Fire From China’s Rapid Growth Recovery,” Bloomberg


GameStop Stock Jumps to New Record,” Wall Street Journal 


Massachusetts regulator says GameStop speculation is a danger to the whole market, as TD Ameritrade restricts trading,” CNBC


Does Trump Have the Legal Authority to Demote the Federal Reserve Chairman?New York Times


Watch and Listen


The Dollar At The Center Of The World,” Planet Money


TIAA’s Roger Ferguson on Avoiding a Double-Dip Recession,” Leadership Next

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