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OFF THE CUFF

From Bretton Woods to Banking Crises w/Alasdair McLeod

Alasdair McLeod brilliantly explains the financial history required to know why things are now careening off the rails.

user profile picture Chris Martenson Oct 25, 2023
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In this week’s Off The Cuff interview, Alsadair McLeod and I dive into the topic of Bretton Woods, a financial mechanism that, for a time, seemed as unbreakable as Fort Knox. Initially, the U.S. was sitting atop a mountain of gold, roughly 26,000 tonnes if memory serves. This stockpile not only instilled confidence, but it was the bedrock of global finance.

Yet, as with all things, human mismanagement took its toll.

Wars, from Korea to Vietnam, alongside trade deficits, particularly with a booming Germany, saw the US’s gold reserves dwindle. The London Gold Pool of the 1960s, established as a lifeline for the dollar, eventually succumbed to the same pressures. Notably, France grew weary of the dollar’s hegemony, signaling a preference for tangible gold over the greenback. This cascade of events culminated in a crisis in 1971 when the U.S. gold reserve plummeted to a mere 8,500 tonnes, prompting President Nixon to ‘temporarily’ suspend the Bretton Woods agreement. It remains suspended to this day.

Fast forward to the present, the global fiscal landscape is once again shifting. Excessive government spending and soaring debt-to-GDP ratios have cast a shadow on the longevity of fiat currencies. Many argue we’re on the precipice of another significant financial reset. In the face of these challenges, the proposed solutions, from central bank digital currencies to fiscal austerity, remain contentious. While the path forward is murky, one thing is clear: the lessons of Bretton Woods, its rise, and eventual decline, serve as a stark reminder of the cyclical nature of financial systems and the delicate balance on which they hinge.


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