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Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System Hardcover – January 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"A fascinating and readable account of the dollar's rise and potential fall"--The Economist


"A rare combination of macroeconomic mastery, historical erudition, good political instincts and the sort of stubborn common sense that is constantly placing familiar problems in a new light."--Financial Times


"This short, accessible book about the U.S. dollar by Barry Eichengreen may be one of the most important published this year.--Barron's


"[A] brisk primer on the dollar's role in the international monetary system."--Bloomberg News


"Exorbitant Privilege is a book for anyone who has been perplexed why, despite the frequent predictions of the dollar's demise over the last fifty years, it has managed to maintain its position as the world's pre-eminent reserve currency. The book includes both a lively historical account of the dollar's role in the international monetary system and an incisive and balanced discussion of future challenges."--Liaquat Ahamed, author of Lords of Finance


"Short and eminently readable.... In just 177 pages of text, [Eichengreen] provides a wealth of material for both the lay reader and the scholar... You can't do better than Eichengreen for a solid read on the dollar's wild ride."--The American Prospect


"Compact and readable...Eichengreen adds much needed nuance and subtlety to the U.S. dollar debate....is [also] a pithy and amusing history of the international monetary system....for those fascinated by historical figures and events, behind-the-scenes machinations, and the logistical elements that make a complex currency and trade system work, the telling is very well done."--Business Insider


"Barry Eichengreen's book couldn't be more timely... Elegant and pithy."--Finance & Development, IMF.org


"The book, written for the general public, is useful and pleasant to read also by the so-called professionals. Those used to Eichengreens clear and fluent prose will find here a particularly light touch obtained by dropping here and there a good dose of anecdotal hints to lessen the weight of serious history and rigorous economics...provides a masterful users manual for the crisis that began in 2007."--EH.net


"The historical narrative in this book is fascinating and I highly recommend it to both specialists and nonexpert advanced readers."--Journal of Economic History


"This slender and pleasant book is a story of the dollar in the world financial system, and an attempt at speculating on the future of the U.S. currency.... [It] is good reading, contains well organized facts and discussions, and raises important and difficult questions."--Journal of Economic Literature


"[A] detailed and fast-moving analysis of the rise of the greenback as an international currency." --EnlightenmentEconomics.com


"This is a brisk and invigorating account of a century of international monetary developments by one of America's foremost economic historians.... As would be expected, Exorbitant Privilege is extremely well informed, cogently argued, and broadly persuasive. Events and policies, such as the Suez war, the EMS breakdown or the current financial crisis--together with sharp criticism of the excessive deregulation favoured by both Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers--are splendidly documented. Conflicting views of what might happen in the future are clearly put forward and analysed. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the book also displays fairly frequent touches of humour. In other words, it is both erudite and readable."--New Left Review


"Both eloquent and elegant...The book is admirably written and its final message is very clear."--The Economic History Review


"A concentrated dose of common sense... If you're going to read only one book about the economy this election season, make it Barry Eichengreen's Exorbitant Privilege."--The Maui News


"When everyone from Brazil's leader to Sarah Palin questions the dollar's status as a reserve currency, it is time for an expert to sort out the truth from the hyperbole. Barry Eichengreen performs this service with unwavering clarity."--Sebastian Mallaby, Council on Foreign Relations


"Professor Eichengreen has written a truly superb book on the role and global standing of the dollar--past, present and future. Those exposed to the evolution of the globally economy, and that's virtually all of us, will find his book extremely thoughtful and a great read."--Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO


"Eichengreen is the master of international money in history and its troubles. Exorbitant Privilege is a fine account of whence it came and a judicious survey of where it might go."--James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too


"Barry Eichengreen again demonstrates his ability to integrate economic history and theory with political analysis in order to illuminate the critical issues of international finance. The timely and accessible book is must reading for all concerned with the prospective balance of international power--financial, economic and political--in a multi-polar world."--William H. Janeway, Warburg Pincus


"[S]urprisingly compact and readable book, Eichengreen adds much needed nuance and subtlety to the U.S. dollar debate . . . a pithy and amusing history of the international monetary system . . . those fascinated by historical figures and events, behind-the-scenes machinations, and the logistical elements that make a complex currency and trade system work, the telling is very well done." --BusinessInsider.com


"[A] brief and readable account of how the international monetary system got where it is today and of past efforts, both successful and (mainly) unsuccessful, to reform it." --Foreign Affairs


"[A] timely book on monetary economics and currencies that is clear and easy to read, with elements of drama and excitement." --The Finance Professionals' Post, a publication of the New York Society of Security Analysts


"If you're going to read only one book about the economy this election season, make it Barry Eichengreen's Exorbitant Privilege." --Maui News


"This is a brisk and invigorating account of a century of international monetary developments by one of America's foremost economic historians. As would be expected, Exorbitant Privilege is extremely well informed, cogently argued, and broadly persuasive. Events and policies, such as the Suez war, the EMS breakdown or the current financial crisis--together with sharp criticism of the excessive deregulation favoured by both Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers--are splendidly documented. Conflicting views of what might happen in the future are clearly put forward and analysed. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the book also displays fairly frequent touches of humour. In other words, it is both erudite and readable." Andrea Boltho, he New Left Review


About the Author


Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Political Science and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. His previous books include The European Economy Since 1945, Global Imbalances and the Lessons of Bretton Woods, Capital Flows and Crises, and Financial Crises and What to Do About Them. He has written for the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199753784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199753789
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Barry Eichengreen is George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of California, NBER Research Associate, and CEPR Research Fellow. He was formerly Senior Policy Advisor at the International Monetary Fund (Washington, D.C.), fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (Palo Alto), and fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Berlin). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes a monthly column for Project Syndicate and periodic columns for Estadao Sao Paulo (Brazil), Finanz und Wirtschaft (Switzerland), Handelsblatt (Germany), and Eurointelligence (in Europe). He is past president of the Economic History Association, winner of the Schumpeter Prize of the International Schumpeter Society. and has been named one of the 100 most important public intellectuals by Foreign Policy Magazine. You can follow his tweets at b_eichengreeen@twitter.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As other reviewers have noted, the first half of this book is a history of US currency in international transactions. While important, this material is necessarily dull. The author does an excellent job of making it no duller than it has to be. He does not leave out the important minutiae of trade acceptances and special drawing rights, but he explains them clearly and without jargon; without droning on beyond the needs of the history. The author has an extremely dry sense of humor, easy to miss but worth catching, and works in enough amusing detail to keep you awake.

Compared to the conventional story, this book presents a generally negative picture of currency management, especially in Europe and doubly especially in the UK. The US makes its share of mistakes in the book, but fewer than other countries. That plus two world wars propelled the dollar to international prominence. The careful parsing of history also reveals that currency hegemony is more fragile than commonly thought, it is largely coincidence that we have had only two dominant world currencies, sterling and dollar, over nearly 200 years.

Over the last 20 years fiscal mismanagement and financial crisis threaten the dollar's global role, and other countries have made successful innovations. But the dollar's relative advantages remain strong, which should at least make one of the major international currency if we don't screw things up too much. However no currency is likely to dominate the way the pound did in the 19th century or the dollar did in the 20th.

On the downside, the book has a narrow focus. Financial markets are absent from the story, except when they are causing trouble.
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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most French people attribute the expression "America's exorbitant privilege" to de Gaulle. Those familiar with postwar economic history may associate it with the name of Jacques Rueff, the independent economist who advised de Gaulle on monetary matters. The "exorbitant privilege" of the dollar has been associated with America's ability to record a "deficit without tears" that gives people the impression "that they can give without taking, lend without borrowing, and purchase without paying", to borrow a quotation from Jacques Rueff. Or, as a Treasury Secretary once famously replied to Europeans worried by exchange rate fluctuations, the dollar "is our currency, but your problem."

But in fact it was not de Gaulle nor Jacques Rueff who used this expression first, and the "exorbitant privilege" is nowhere to be found in their speeches or writings. It was Raymond Aron, the public intellectual otherwise sympathetic to American power, who wrote it for the first time in his column published by Le Figaro in February 1965. The line was a quote from a declaration by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, finance minister to de Gaulle, and also much less inclined to denounce American hegemony.

Barry Eichengreen, who rightly attributes the quote to whom it is due, is the don of international monetary history. He has published scores of books and papers on the international monetary system, from the gold standard to Bretton Woods and beyond. No one is therefore more qualified to write an essay about the challenges facing the dollar as an international currency. His book covers a lot of material presented in a concise and non-academic way. Readers who need a one-stop shop for the history of international currencies should look no further.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on November 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Exorbitant Privilege" by Barry Eichengreen offers an uniquely powerful analysis of the U.S. economy and its future. Mr. Eichengreen expertly blends politics, history, and economics to weave a fascinating narrative about the underappreciated but vital subject of fiscal policy. Underscoring the central importance of sound fiscal management to our lives, this book should interest policy makers and students of economics alike.

Mr. Eichengreen takes us through a brief history of American currency practices from the colonial period to today. Interestingly, we learn that foreign currencies such as the peso were commonly used well past the founding of the U.S. government and its fledgling currency, the dollar, was established. Yet, even as the U.S. grew to become the world's largest economic power, the dollar would not come to dominate international trade until after the devastation of two world wars left the U.S. standing alone as the sole remaining capitalist power. The author goes on to explain how the U.S. benefits from the dollar's status as the reserve currency of the world; an exorbitant privilege that, if squandered, would have meaningful implications for our economy.

On this point, Mr. Eichengreen discusses historic events such as the Suez Canal Crisis to illustrate how American power and the dollar are inextricably entwined. Mr. Eichengreen discusses the 2008 financial crisis which has raised serious questions about America's financial stability. Although foreigners were rightfully upset at watching their dollar investments lose value, the author coolly asserts that all serious challengers have their own flaws.
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