The following is how to save the world economy. It depends on one curious fact which hardly anybody remarks on. This is that while the four major economic powers — America, the Eurozone, Japan and China — are now dangling on the edge of currency disaster which may yet drive us all down into long-term recession, most of the businesses of the world are surviving in reasonably good heart and, indeed, many of the larger ones are thriving with profits piling up for lack of certainty about the future.
All businesses are scientifically based in the sense that they all operate with standard measures (weights, volumes, time, speed, etc) which are also the bedrock of science. This is particularly important these days when millions of businesses operate in different countries with hundreds of thousands joining them every year as the world economy becomes increasingly globalized. However, they operate in over 200 currencies with values which are far from standard and are constantly wobbling about between themselves. In the short term, the values wobble according to the whims of different governments in printing or digitizing them in order to devalue their debts and, in the longer term, according to the innovative ability of different countries as it affects their latest exportable products.
But any idea that over 200 countries would ever be likely to agree on a common world trading currency belongs to another planet, not this one. The last time an attempt was made was the Bretton Woods ‘Agreement’ of 1944 when America imposed a world currency system on 43 other countries. It failed in several stages within a few years, principally when President Nixon went off the gold standard dollar (by then exiguous) in 1971. Since then, the American dollar and all other currencies have proceeded to inflate at a gallop. A moment’s thought is sufficient to convince one that America (or the Eurozone, or Japan or China) will never be able to impose a world currency system again, even if its Treasury Secretaries knew how (although I think that many of them already do know actually).
If and when we descend further into currency uncertainty and when economic depression threatens to unfold, there will come a stage when the most efficient and profitable businesses are going to say to themselves: “Hold on! If this goes on we’re going to go bankrupt just as surely as most advanced governments and most banks are already. Where will we (managers, employees, shareholders, customers, pensioners) be then?” It won’t take a genius among them to say: “If governments can’t do it, then we must create a standard world trading currency.”
It would only take one of the most prolific trading corporations to start the ball rolling. It would say to its suppliers and customers: “We are now paying you or charging you in a new currency. It is valued by dividing the world’s necessary basic money supply by the tonnage of gold. Because the tonnage of gold hardly changes from year to year, then the new currency unit will be a reliable standard which we can use from now onwards. We will also record the amount of new money we have created on a publicly available world database together with brief transaction details (even those between our different departments in different countries). We will also put all our previous moneys and accounts into escrow for the time being (to be sorted out later) and re-start our accounting software from scratch with the new money. From now onwards, if we already have some new money on hand whenever we pay suppliers we will use ‘old’ new money first (to prevent double-counting), making up any balance with ‘new’ new money which we create and then record on the world database.”
The new currency could only start with a single corporation but I am assuming that it will do so only after it has consulted beforehand with half-a-dozen or so other large corporations (this number, due to our long-time small-group ancestry, being the limit of any effective decision-making committee) and have agreed that the new system is a goer. Half a dozen of the largest corporations, together with the rationale that lies behind it, would be sufficient for all the others to follow as transactions flow downwards or even de novo among their own networks.
What would happen? There would be three main consequences. 1. The new money would rattle down like a benign machine-gun to the smallest village shop anywhere in the world within days; 2. The new money would never exceed the basic supply that was needed to keep the world economy going (thus inflation would never happen again); 3. For a while, the new money and existing nationalist currencies (at their previous valuations) would co-exist.
Governments would need to continue with their own currencies for a while in order to continue to pay any additional welfare benefits and to terminate transactions that have already taken place but not completely fulfilled. For reasons of nostalgia they would probably want to retain the names of their previous currencies but their actual value would very soon need to be recalibrated by being tied in some fixed ratio to the new world trading currency. If they did not do so then their own import and export businesses would collapse tout court and the rest would follow. Such dual currency systems — such as the deutschmark and rentenmark which co-existed in 1920s Germany — don’t last long before people (not governments) decide one way or the other, but in the case I’m describing it would last long enough until a the new currency (or a recalibrated old one) would be obligatory in the shops.
One of my friends frequently jibes me with my tendency to make forecasts. As well he might (though I like to think that 51% of my forecasts do in fact come true!) Well, the above is one which will have to await a world-wide currency catastrophe or maybe when only a week-end away. It may be after my time. Maybe my grandchildren will say to their children: “Well Grandad was as mad a coot and never trimmed his hair, but he was right on this one.” Maybe I’ll be watching from some deep quantum level database from which my earthly grandchildren will not hear me yelp, “I told you so!”