The Biggest Game in Town

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And that is where it must end. The very absence of US policymakers from Davos tells the story.

None of them are here because they're too busy saving the world. In 10 or 20 years' time, the world economy will probably have other engines it can turn to when American demand starts to falter. But right now, we are still all chained to the buying capacity of the US. Chinese and Russians officials don't like America's presumption. Their complaints about the US are today festooned on the front page of the FT. Having caused the crisis, the Chinese premier effectively suggested the Americans should show a bit more humility in deciding the best way out.

Igor Yurgens, a senior advisor to the Russian president, took a sharper tack. He said President Obama's stimulus package was "selfish" and philosophically akin to protectionism. Bill Clinton is the closest thing Davos has to a senior US official this year and he responded pretty directly at a packed session this morning. It all started in the US. But I doubt that any Russian or Chinese policymakers seriously want the Americans to sit on their hands.

At the heart of the spats with the US is a more basic frustration that the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency means that, yet again, America is getting a free pass.

The Biggest Game in Town

Governments all over the world are plunging into deficit to get themselves out of this mess. And the more profligate they were in the past, the more they are paying the price in the form of a falling currency. Witness what's happened to the pound. But not the US. Because it is the world's reserve currency it can flood the world with US debt, and the dollar barely falters. It has even risen a little today.

It's not fair. And it may change. But for the moment, America and its currency are the biggest game in town. Sign in or register to comment. Save the rich first and the poor is enslaved.

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Please God save us from this imbecile. Complain about this comment Comment number 1. It is understandable that mainstream commentators are seeing the current crisis as a particularly bad downturn, but that normal service will be resumed, even if political and economic power has shifted. Much discussion is to be found particularly on how the imbalances are to be overcome - how China can grow its domestic demand.

I venture to say that this is another example of lack of vision and understanding. There is a theory that describes capitalism as a decadent system. It is a Marxist theory - so immediately dismissed by many. But those of you who are more objective might like to try and understand it. I would suggest you start by googling for Loren Goldner's articles. His analysis of the current crisis is set within the context of this theory. Complain about this comment Comment number 2. So which currency out there is actually strong enough to become the currency of last resort?

Surely if there was one already then the capital would have already fled there.

If we withdraw this central plank from the US will it actually get much worse for much longer? Should we simply re-impose the Gold Standard and dispense with currencies altogether? What about a worldwide currency?


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Remove that market and the crutch of the US will surely be removed. Complain about this comment Comment number 3. The free ride enjoyed by the Americans thanks to the dollar's reserve status will certainly come to an end - the only question is when. Already it is hard to see how the US can possibly service their debt.

Sooner or later people will not only stop buying dollars, they'll dump those they already have. That really will be an historic day. Any chance you might make an appearance on Newsnight? They desperately need you.

The Biggest Game in Town

Complain about this comment Comment number 4. Let's get this straight. So, the original investors into Treasuries lose money. Not a very good advert for buying Treasury notes or bonds is it? I don't think I'll buy any. The other risk to consider is what happens if the US stimulus package actually fails - the value of the US dollar will fall, causing imported inflation, causing the value of Treasuries to fall.

If the US stimulus package is successful, or if it fails, the outcome is the bursting of the US Treasuries bubble. Maybe I'm not understanding this right Complain about this comment Comment number 5. The US Dollar is a Ponzi scheme. Complain about this comment Comment number 6. Stephanie wrote: ".. It wants to devalue the currency without actually having to say so. It wants the advantage of protectionist policies without having to say so - it can just blame the market!

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It wants to fulminate and rant against such policies in public whilst deliberately pursuing policies that are the exact opposite. Complain about this comment Comment number 7. Thanks for coming back online Stephanie. It is wonderful to see some real economic vision in the BBC's mainstream blogs your Newsnight colleague s have also been doing a good job.

Please withstand pressure and keep up the good work. Isn't it true that both China and the US desperately wish to deflate their currencies now to protect against depression. And China, as the stronger economic party, is happy to let the US Dollar remain as the reserve currency of the world for a few more years, whilst China escapes from depression, and then when China has regrown enough demand locally and in Asia, etc, China will insist on a dump of the US Dollar from its reserve role, bankrupting and destroying America.


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Two years, or ten years, anyone? Complain about this comment Comment number 8.


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  6. Sounds like the old house prices mantra to me. Unshakeable confidence can be a bubble too. Complain about this comment Comment number 9.

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    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Complain about this comment Comment number What Everybody has forgoten is: The law of unintended consequences: Which is that actions of government always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. I'm with the Chinese on this one.

    A little more humility on the part of the west is definitely in order. We are only too happy to lecture the Chinese on for example human rights issues when all the time our own economies were going pear-shaped. We'd do better to to mind our own business literally. Chinese people are generally very hardworking and disciplined, saving rather than spending on fripperies.