The War at the End of the Dollar

According to this article, the number of wars is directly correlated with increases in the US money supply. Increases in the US money supply lead to a loss of value in the dollar which ultimately, the author believes, will lead to an eventual end for the US dollar's reign to be market by war.

By Ron Hera
Posted Thursday, 12 April 2012
Gold Seek

The history of the U.S. dollar is closely linked to U.S. involvement in a series of wars. The Bretton Woods Accord and the resulting world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar were both byproducts of World War II (1939-1945). The Korean War (1950-1953) was followed six years later by the Vietnam War (1959-1975) which led to the end of the Bretton Woods system. Unfettered by the constraint of gold backing after 1971, the U.S. dollar became a weapon in the Cold War (1945–1991) between the U.S. and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Each war corresponded with an increase in the U.S. money supply. The Gulf War (1990-1991) was followed by wars in Afghanistan, beginning in 2001, and in Iraq, beginning in 2003, and, simultaneously, by the U.S.-led War on Terror that began in 2001. Like the wars that came before them, the recent staccato of U.S. wars is correlated with increases in the U.S. money supply. The Iraq war, for example, is estimated to have cost as much as $4 trillion.

The loss of value in the U.S. dollar caused by excessive expansion of the money supply, together with rising demand for raw materials from emerging economies, has led to permanently higher global commodity prices. Higher crude oil prices, in particular, have put pressure on the U.S. economy, which is putatively in a gradual recovery from the recession that began in 2007. At the same time, international trade has begun to move away from the U.S. dollar, threatening its world reserve currency status. Given the history of the U.S. dollar, it seems likely that an eventual end of the U.S. dollar’s reign as the world reserve currency will be marked by war.

U.S. politicians are clamoring for war with Iran, the third largest oil exporter in the world. Iran refuses to sell its oil for U.S. dollars. If Iranian oil were traded in U.S. dollars, it would moderate the U.S. dollar price of crude oil and ease pressure on the U.S. economy, as well as extend the world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar and give the U.S. economic leverage over consumers of Iranian oil, which include China and India.

The U.S. news media is preparing the American public for a war with Iran with reports about the dangers of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Television news reports have speculated that Iran would immediately wipe out Israel if it obtained a nuclear weapon, despite the fact that a thermonuclear exchange would wipe out Iran. It has also been reported that Iran might carry out nuclear strikes on U.S. soil using intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), although Iran possesses neither nuclear warheads nor ICBMs. In fact, there is no evidence that Iran is currently building a nuclear weapon. One concern that is valid, however, is that no nuclear power has ever been invaded in a conventional war.

Forged in the Fire of War

The approaching end of World War II led to the creation of the Bretton Woods system in July 1944, although fighting in Europe and in the Pacific continued into 1945. The U.S. dollar, which was convertible into gold, became the dominant mechanism for international trade settlement. The price of gold was set to the pre-war price of $35 per troy ounce, which was deflationary at the time. There was nothing in the Bretton Woods Accord, however, that prevented the U.S. from issuing more currency than was backed by gold other than the threat of a run on U.S. gold reserves.

The Bretton Woods system worked as intended for roughly 17 years. The London gold market, which had been closed during World War II, reopened in 1954. By 1961, upward pressure on the price of gold prompted the establishment of the London Gold Pool by the U.S. Federal Reserve and major European central banks (including the central banks of the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and West Germany). The London Gold Pool defended the $35 per troy ounce price through interventions in the London gold market, but upward pressure on the price of gold grew. In July of 1962, Americans were forbidden by then president Kennedy to own gold abroad by Executive Order 11037. In a 1965 press conference, then president of France, Charles de Gaulle publicly denounced the U.S. for abusing the world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar. The London Gold Pool collapsed in March of 1968 after France withdrew from the group setting off a surge in gold demand that caused the London gold market to shut down for a two week period.

By 1971, substantially due to the cost of the Vietnam War, the U.S. had leveraged its gold reserves to the breaking point. The expansion of the U.S. money supply caused the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) to increase by more than 6% in 1970 and it remained above 4% in 1971. When U.S. President Nixon “closed the gold window” in August 1971 and instituted price controls, the Bretton Woods system ended and an ad hoc floating exchange system resulted. From their peak during World War II to 1971, U.S. gold holdings fell from approximately 20,205 tonnes to approximately 8,134 tonnes. In February 1973, the U.S. devalued the dollar and raised the official dollar price of gold to $42.22 per troy ounce. By June of the same year, the market price in London had skyrocketed to more than $120 per ounce.

Although CPI inflation was below 4% at the start of 1973, it rapidly accelerated, reaching 9% at the start of 1974. With the last vestiges of gold backing having been removed from the U.S. dollar, Americans were once again allowed to own gold as a hedge against inflation. Against a backdrop of runaway U.S. dollar inflation, Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with Egypt, Syria and Tunisia proclaimed an oil embargo in October of 1974. Officially, U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War was the reason for the embargo, but it was also a challenge to the un-backed U.S. dollar’s position as the world reserve currency, i.e., as an exclusive medium for crude oil sales.

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