Abstract

This paper has analyzed the working of the gold standard, the Bretton Woods system, and the EMS so far. The lessons drawn from this analysis are, first, that in a fixed exchange rate system the money supply cannot be exogenously determined by the monetary authorities of individual countries without interfering with the balance of payments adjustment process. This is the more true the greater the degree of capital mobility in a system. However, in each system and to different degrees, a leader has emerged providing the “anchor” to the system and having a greater degree of monetary autonomy than the other members. The second lesson is that a properly functioning fixed or adjustable exchange rate system needs a rule governing inflation. The gold standard had such a rule, albeit an imperfect one: Bretton Woods did not and neither does the EMS. To the extent that in the latter two systems the nth country (the leader) has also provided an acceptable inflation anchor, the system has operated satisfactorily but in an asymmetric manner.