This might seem a frivolous question, while the dollar still retains its might, and is universally accepted in preference to other, less stable fiat currencies. However, it is becoming clear, at least to independent monetary observers, that in 2018 the dollar’s primacy will be challenged by the yuan as the pricing medium for energy and other key industrial commodities. After all, the dollar’s role as the legacy trade medium is no longer appropriate, given that China’s trade is now driving the global economy, not America’s.
At the very least, if the dollar’s future role diminishes, then there will be surplus dollars, which unless they are withdrawn from circulation entirely, will result in a lower dollar on the foreign exchanges. While it is possible for the Fed to contract the quantity of base money (indeed this is the implication of its desire to reduce its balance sheet anyway), it would also have to discourage and even reverse the expansion of bank credit, which would be judged by central bankers to be economic suicide. For that to occur, the US Government itself would also have to move firmly and rapidly towards eliminating its budget deficit. But that is being deliberately increased by the Trump administration instead.
Explaining the consequences of these monetary dynamics was the purpose of an essay written by Ludwig von Mises almost a century ago.[i] At that time, the German hyperinflation was entering its final phase ahead of the mark’s eventual collapse in November 1923. Von Mises had already helped to stabilise the Austrian crown, whose own collapse was stabilised at about the time he wrote his essay, so he wrote with both practical knowledge and authority.
The dollar, of course, is nowhere near the circumstances faced by the German mark at that time. However, the conditions that led to the mark’s collapse are beginning to resonate with a familiarity that should serve as an early warning. The situation, was of course, different. Germany had lost the First World War and financed herself by printing money. In fact, she started down that route before the war, seizing upon the new Chartalist doctrine that money should rightfully be issued by the state, in preference to the established knowledge that money’s validity was determined by markets. Without abandoning gold for her own state-issued currency, Germany would never have managed to build and finance her war machine, which she did by printing currency. The ultimate collapse of the mark was not mainly due to the Allies’ reparations set at the treaty of Versailles, as commonly thought today, because the inflation had started long before.
The dollar has enjoyed a considerably longer life as an unbacked state-issued currency than the mark did, but do not think the monetary factors have been much different. The Bretton Woods agreement, designed to make the dollar appear “as good as gold”, was cover for the US Government to fund Korea, Vietnam and other foreign ventures by monetary inflation, which it did without restraint. That deceit ended in 1971, and today the ratio of an ounce of gold to the dollar has moved to about 1:1310 from the post-war rate of 1:35, giving a loss of the dollar’s purchasing power, measured in the money of the market, of 97.3%.