Other Hegemon Currencies Failed--Then What?

Thu, Nov 14, 2013 - 12:34am
I was curious. Over time in the recent past, other hegemon currencies failed, but those countries managed to hang around, even still today.
So, what happened to those folks in those countries who lost the “exorbitant privilege?”
Here is a chart showing different currencies, that were dominant at one point in the recent past. From my historical understanding, this era is referred to as the mercantilist era, and had to do with international trade following the discovery that the world was indeed round.
So, let us ask: why was such currency at the time the hegemon?
Mercantilist banks cleared transactions in the dominant currency at the time. Duh. Makes sense. Who wanted payment in something that had no value? Which bank wanted to loan value and be repaid in something not presently in demand? Since the strong banks in the dominant countries set the terms of transactions, it was natural for transactions to be cleared in the currency of the dominant trading regions or countries of the time.
But still, it nags me that each and every one of those currencies were not fiat, but real, tangible coins, or they were bills, that is, paper claims upon gold / silver specie. So, one holding a paper bill could exchange the bill for the real deal. Unlike the situation today, and unlike since 1971 when Nixon closed the gold window. So those currencies, the hegemons of the time, were not pure fiat, like today. Even that being the case, what is the lesson to learn?
The reserve currencies of the time enjoyed their prominence based on real flows of goods, and as those flows were altered, the dominant currencies changed as well. Aha, this makes sense. But still, what happened at the end of the hegemon reign?
Importantly, and questions I have had for a long time include these: if those hegemon currencies all eventually failed, then why did the countries still exist? What happened to the citizens of the countries that had the former dominant currency? What happened to their way of life? Did they end up third world countries? What happened to their living standards? Did they recover? If so, how, and what brought it about?
I am starting to think I figured it all out. I am starting to think it is not that complicated. I am starting to think that the answers are so obvious, so as to be ignored, because the answers to these questions really do not matter.
So let’s get to the point.
Unlike those from the mercantilist era, the world’s dominant currency today, the dollar, is nothing but a fiat currency. https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-fiat-money.htm
Since this is a web site devoted to exploring the end of the great Keynesian experiment, naturally, questions arise about just that, what happens when it ends?
Plenty of intellectuals extol fiat currencies as being a good thing, including even being important and necessary, like, for example, an esoteric exposition that only Pining could like [sorry buddy, but you are the professor]. Take this intellectual effort from these guys, from an article I plucked at random during a google search:
Look at what these European intellectuals say:
“Not only the central bank of the hegemonic country can act as a lender of last resort to its own banks, but also it can do it for the state, and the national government has the ability to stimulate global, not just domestic, effective demand.
Further, the risk that the hegemon would be unable to expand demand globally, because it is forced to maintain a fixed ratio of currency to an external asset is [non-]existent. It is true that foreign countries and agents may show unwillingness to hold dollar denominated assets, but, as in the domestic case, the Fed can always monetize debt.
Again, as in the closed economy case, this only would be inflationary and lead to a run on the dollar if there is currency substitution on a massive scale, which would require a credible alternative to the dollar.
And that leads as to the current crisis and the euro, which was hailed by some as a possible alternative to dollar hegemony. It is important, however, to emphasize, that even if economic agents substitute the euro for the dollar, the United States still would not have its ability to import curtailed, since most American imports are invoiced in dollars, including commodities. Essentially, that means that the United States would still not have a balance of payments constraint. In this sense, it is the ability to determine that key commodities and particular contracts are settled in dollars, not the specific currency reserve holdings that determines which currency is dominant.”
So, let me translate some of this ivory-tower thinking and relate it to what JY said earlier in the week, as well as relate it to events in the middle east and recent developments about Iran.
First, they say it is a good thing to be able to print at will and not be restrained to a gold standard, because it means that the issuer of the fiat can bail out the banks, the governments, and on a GLOBAL basis! This is a good thing, according to these intellectuals. Since when is moral hazard a good thing, though? Maybe I missed that class in college.
This paragraph just absolutely blows me away with its imperiousness:
“Further, the risk that the hegemon would be unable to expand demand globally, because it is forced to maintain a fixed ratio of currency to an external asset is [non-]existent. It is true that foreign countries and agents may show unwillingness to hold dollar denominated assets, but, as in the domestic case, the Fed can always monetize debt.”
Did you catch that? They say printing can go to infinity because there is no tie to assets, like gold. I.e., QE to infinity. Like what Mr. TF said would happen. Hmmm . . .
Did you see the rest? Other countries may show “unwillingness” to hold dollar denominated assets, but . . . the Fed can always monetize debt.” WTF!! Let’s do this slow. So, if other countries don’t want our treasuries for their balance of payments, which means that either those treasuries are not purchased at auction, or the countries holding them exchange them for real assets, say, like the JPM building in NY with the huge underground gold vault, then those treasuries are not valueless, no, not at all, because the Fed will simply print more dollar bills and exchange those worthless treasuries with zero term, zero coupon debt notes called the US dollar!
They say that this poses no inflationary problems, either: “Again, as in the closed economy case, this only would be inflationary and lead to a run on the dollar if there is currency substitution on a massive scale, which would require a credible alternative to the dollar.”
See, they imply that inflation could only occur if there was a credible alternative to the dollar. Meaning, if folks LOST CONFIDENCE in holding dollars, and turned to something else. You know, something tangible, which holds its value, does not erode, is rare, is divisible, is interchangeable, you know, gold or silver. And on this point, they are accurate. Under no circumstances can there be any credibility lent to the concept that gold and silver are currency substitutes for fiat dollars.
This last little part is what ties it together with what JY wrote about China taking over Africa, and which zerohedge and other sites have informed us about regarding Saudi Arabia telling Mr. Obomber to invade Syria, and which Iranian developments show that the USA is soon about to lose its ability to force transactions to be cleared in terms of dollars. Here is the kicker, and the concept to keep in mind for the immediate future: “it is the ability to determine that key commodities and particular contracts are settled in dollars, not the specific currency reserve holdings that determines which currency is dominant.”
So there it is. It is the “ability to determine that key commodities . . . are settled in dollars . . . [that] determines which currency is dominant.” So, it comes down to power to control the transactions’ currency. Who controls the transaction, controls which currency is dominant.
So, adding it all up, if the USA loses the ability to control that transactions are denominated in dollars, then the USA loses its hegemon, and some other currency takes over.
We are seeing that right now, in real time. It is only a matter of time before the world’s commodities contracts are settled in something other than the dollar. When that happens, the dollar will be as valuable as whatever uses that little, colorful piece of paper has.
What evidence exists of that? Plenty.
JY mentioned the Chinese invasion, economically, of the continent of Africa. Soon, China will be the resource rich producer of goods and services, with ITS citizens and subjects the source of commerce, and from which economic power the mercantilist banks will emerge. We have all seen and read and heard that China is separately negotiating international trade agreements priced in terms other than the dollar.
We have heard, seen, and read plenty of stories of how certain of the middle east countries have benefitted from US military protection in exchange for requiring oil purchases to be priced in dollars. The Saudia Arabia mess about Syria has blown wide open that Obomber is just a Saudi Puppet bowing to his masters and trying, desperately <cough, false flag, cough> to incite a war in Syria in order to get Saudi gas pipelines routed through Syria to feed Europe.
And now, the US has been exposed as being a patsy to Iran, and the French surrender afficionados have had to come to our rescue as having the only backbone in the group to stand up against the absurd surrender terms?
And it is the Russians who are staunchly advocating peace, who took in a US national to protect him from the murderous USA spying agencies trying to silence his whistleblowing of massive, illegal spying, of USA citizens and EVERY SINGLE WORLD LEADER!?
This is crazy talk. But, it is very much fact, and very much happening right now, in real time.
Is everyone preparing, or not?
Connect the dots, and view things with an open, clear mind. Then, putting the anger aside, reach a rational conclusion of the steps to take to prepare, and do so, accordingly.
Oh yeah, and the answer to the initial question, is simple yet profound. Those people, of the regimes who were the hegemons of the time? Well, they went on living, as the economically powerful nations elsewhere rose and faded away, like the ebbing of the tide. Life just went on. Just like ours will, only differently.

About the Author


Nov 14, 2013 - 12:46am


CL put together very nicely. Right there in front of us, well laid out


boomer sooner
Nov 14, 2013 - 1:10am

Firrrrst! Sorry had to do


Sorry had to do it.

Dire, I say.

Thanks CL.

Add: I was at a customers home today and we started talking about economy and the dollar. He had no idea what the term 'fiat currency' stood for. I pulled out a paper dollar and explained, then pulled out a '23 Peace dollar out of my pocket. Just happened to have a $5 Mt Rushmore in the truck. His eyes started to shine. This person is successful (currently building a mid six figure home mostly with cash, taken him 3 years) and travels throughout the country as an independent insurance adjustor. Blew my mind he had no idea. The sheeple are closer than you think. I still believe he does not grasp what is happening to the good ol' US of A.

Spartacus Rex
Nov 14, 2013 - 1:10am

@ CL - Speeding Up the Learning Curve

Have you yet had a chance to read G. Edward Griffin's Book The Creature from Jekyll Island (1994, presently in 5th edition) or perhaps even Gertrude Coogan's work "Money Creators" from 1935 (available for free online)?

Nov 14, 2013 - 1:46am

Today marks the day

that another light bulb came on. Syria is of great consequence, Saudi royals own a % share of the Federal reserve (thanks to Mr. Comiskey Nov 13, 2013), the Russians attempt to make them happy if the US cannot, plus Syria is taking far too long for comfort as the Royal family starts its internal squabbling for Lead Hand on the Saudi Arabian sandy beaches. Whomever can get the Syrians ousted or have them change their minds to allow access to Europe is going to be the winner. The machinations for pleasing the Saudi Royal family has been ongoing, a deal will be struck but with what country?

Sure the Fed is a marker that can be used by whomever pleases the Saudis the most, the Syrian government is toast, now its just a matter of time before the greater powers manage to do them in. No one wants the FED around anymore, do they? If so why has the government of the USA stripped mined the entire country, its values, ethics, manufacturing, and most of all trust. IF one country could influence the Saudi hierarachy to sell its share off or to vote a certain way that would undermine the USD or confidence for even a short bit of time the upper hand could be leveraged, changing the chess board and messing up years worth of planning.

boomer sooner
Nov 14, 2013 - 1:56am

How is someone who is not

How is someone who is not paying attention going to recognize that the digits on a screen are becoming worth less when the digits are not getting smaller. It is one thing to go to the grocery store and pay cash vs plastic. My wife has no idea how much more our feed bill is this year compared to 2 years ago (30%+). I see not only in myself, but in my children, that when a $100 bill is in hand you are less likely to break it rather than a piece of plastic that has $100 credit. Went to Waly World tonight to pick up some hunting gear and purchased some butt cartridge holders that I would probably not have purchased if I had not whipped out the plastic. ( Yes, I pay off monthly, but JPM gives 1% back, and that turns into shiney 2x per year (20-40 oz per) for free, then fishing and boat flips). My question is when do the masses begin to realize, oh $hit! Looking at Germany in the 20's it took appx. 4 years to really accelerate. So from what we see as D day, will it take 4+ years for the $ curve to go vertical (down) or have we already started the climb (due to monitizing the debt). Sorry if confusing, I'm a dollar in dollar out person, net happens to be what is left, not what my account conjures up at the end of the year. Yes, I majored in accounting at Hicksville higher ed, so much for public university.

Spartacus Rex
Nov 14, 2013 - 2:03am

@ Hagarth

Re: "IF one country could influence the Saudi hierarachy to sell its share off or to vote a certain way that would undermine the USD or confidence for even a short bit of time the upper hand could be leveraged, changing the chess board and messing up years worth of planning. "

Gee, how about I move to nominate Canada & you second that motion?

Seriously, China is already attempting making such a move, and that is why the U.S. has sooo many Military Bases in the ME. Change horses in the middle of the stream? Only if Saudi Arabia wants to be turned into glass parking lot overnight!

boomer sooner
Nov 14, 2013 - 2:12am

A great link in the comments

A great link in the comments of CL's first link. Back to basics.


Quantifying the effects of the collapse of the Roman Empire is not an exact science. But from the start to the finish of the first millenium AD, according to the economic historian Angus Maddison, the economy of Western Europe shrank by around a quarter, and that of Italy itself by nearly half.

What this meant for Britain has been spelt out by the Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins. After the Romans left in 410 AD, the archaeological record suggests that the economy slumped to a much more primitive level than on their arrival nearly 400 years earlier.

The reason is clear enough. The more complex and specialised an economy becomes, the more helpless its individuals are in the face of breakdown. The Romans introduced a higher level of complexity to Britain, then took it back home again.

Spartacus Rex
Nov 14, 2013 - 2:58am

Hope versus Gold – Place Your Bets

Gary Christenson | November 13, 2013

The inevitable conclusion of this article by Gary Christenson is that, over the long term, money supply, debt, and prices will increase until there is a systemic reset or crash. What will endure throughout the inevitable inflation, deflation, and crash? Gold and silver will endure. Paper assets are only as good as the collateral backing them, and many of those assets could vaporize in a systemic reset. Physical gold and silver will survive and maintain their value, while the dollar and Treasury Debt may lose a good portion of their value and purchasing power.

The BIG Perspective is shown on the following “Point & Figure” chart from Ron Rosen. This type of chart plots price on the “y” axis while the “x” axis shows time but without uniform distance between years. The long term trend has been up since 1970 and 2001, while the intermediate trend has been down for the past 26 months.

The following are logarithmic charts of the official U.S. national debt, gold, silver, and crude oil for the past three to four decades.

Clearly the long term trends are up. Why?

  • A debt based paper currency system must expand to survive!
  • The Fed needs an increasing money supply and more debt.
  • Congress and the administration aggressively spend money, borrow money, and increase the national debt. It will take a real crisis to change this – much worse than a phony debt ceiling crisis.
  • The financial industry wants to churn more paper assets, debt, derivatives, and volatility to increase their profits.

Is your strategy based on hope or change?

Hope is not a good basis for an investment plan. Hope is not a viable foundation for a political philosophy or for the actions of a government. Hope will not pay the bills, reduce the debt, or return sanity to an out-of-control spending process.

Ask yourself how well these are working:

  • We spent the rent money on lottery tickets and booze. We hope something good happens soon.
  • We spent a few $Trillion on useless wars in the middle-east. We hope it helped.
  • We spent $17,000,000,000,000 more than our revenue. We hope it is not a problem.
  • We sold or “leased” much of our accumulated gold and sent it to China. We hope nobody noticed and that it will not matter.
  • We hope to increase taxes and reduce benefits while increasing consumer prices and we hope to keep the people happy and voting for the incumbents. (This is also change.)
  • We hope to actually pass a budget real soon. (Congress has not passed a budget in the past five years. Did anyone notice or care?)
  • We hope to reduce the deficit real soon.
  • We hope the Federal Reserve and the politicians will make it all better.
  • We hope that hope and change will begin to work real soon.
  • We hope we don’t have another stock market or bond market crash.

As for “CHANGE” – it can be positive or negative. Not all change is good. We “HOPED” for better government and we received Obamacare. Was that a positive change?

Gee, we hope that the 10 Million or so people whose insurance plans will be cancelled and who will be forced to purchase new health insurance policies at much higher rates are okay with the change, increased deductibles and the increased costs. We hope they don’t get upset or angry or think someone lied to them.

Gold and Silver!

Dr. Phil says that the best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior. Using that thought it seems clear that:

1) The official national debt will continue to exponentially increase like it has for more than four decades.

2) The dollar will continue to decline in purchasing power like it has for the past 100 years.

3) Gold and silver will continue to (erratically) increase in price like they have for the past 40 years.

4) Gold and silver will hold their value and purchasing power like they have for 5,000 years.

5) Government deficit spending and borrowing will continue.

6) There will be another budget crisis, and another, and another.

7) Politicians will talk, make promises, and become much wealthier while the middle and lower classes find their expenses increasing far more rapidly than their incomes. We will re-elect those politicians.

8) Hope and change will continue to produce what they have so far – nothing but more debt.

9) Gold and silver will outlast hope, change, paper money, treasury debt, and political promises. Most people do not and will not understand why!

So, place your bets!

Most people will stick with what they know – paper currency, debt based paper assets, political promises, hope and change, and reality television. The choice is yours, but you will have a better financial future and more peace of mind if you invest in something real and valuable.

More to consider:
Created Currencies … Are Not Gold!
We Have Been Warned – Part 3
What You Think Is True Might Be False and Costly

GE Christenson | The Deviant Investor


Spartacus Rex
Nov 14, 2013 - 3:01am

Paul Craig Roberts: What Is The Real Agenda...?

What Is The Real Agenda Of The American Police State?

Paul Craig Roberts

In my last column I emphasized that it was important for American citizens to demand to know what the real agendas are behind the wars of choice by the Bush and Obama regimes. These are major long term wars each lasting two to three times as long as World War II. Forbes reports that one million US soldiers have been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccaruiz/2013/11/04/report-a-million-veterans-injured-in-iraq-afghanistan-wars/ RT reports that the cost of keeping each US soldier in Afghanistan has risen from $1.3 million per soldier to $2.1 million per soldier. https://rt.com/usa/us-afghanistan-pentagon-troops-budget-721/ Matthew J. Nasuti reports in the Kabul Press that it cost US taxpayers $50 million to kill one Taliban soldier. That means it cost $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban fighters. https://kabulpress.org/my/spip.php?article32304 This is a war that can be won only at the cost of the total bankruptcy of the United States.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have estimated that the current out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars is at least $6 trillion.

In other words, it is the cost of these two wars that explain the explosion of the US public debt and the economic and political problems associated with this large debt.

What has America gained in return for $6 trillion and one million injured soldiers, many very severely?

In Iraq there is now an Islamist Shia regime allied with Iran in place of a secular Sunni regime that was an enemy of Iran, one as dictatorial as the other, presiding over war ruins, ongoing violence as high as during the attempted US occupation, and extraordinary birth defects from the toxic substances associated with the US invasion and occupation.

In Afghanistan there is an undefeated and apparently undefeatable Taliban and a revived drug trade that is flooding the Western world with drugs.

The icing on these Bush and Obama “successes” are demands from around the world that Americans and former British PM Tony Blair be held accountable for their war crimes. Certainly, Washington’s reputation has plummeted as a result of these two wars. No governments anywhere are any longer sufficiently gullible as to believe anything that Washington says.

These are huge costs for wars for which we have no explanation.

The Bush/Obama regimes have come up with various cover stories: a “war on terror,”
“we have to kill them over there before they come over here,” “weapons of mass destruction,” revenge for 9/11, Osama bin Laden (who died of his illnesses in December 2001 as was widely reported at the time).

None of these explanations are viable. Neither the Taliban nor Saddam Hussein were engaged in terrorism in the US. As the weapons inspectors informed the Bush regime, there were no WMD in Iraq. Invading Muslim countries and slaughtering civilians is more likely to create terrorists than to suppress them. According to the official story, the 9/11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden were Saudi Arabians, not Afghans or Iraqis. Yet it wasn’t Saudi Arabia that was invaded.

Democracy and accountable government simply does not exist when the executive branch can take a country to wars in behalf of secret agendas operating behind cover stories that are transparent lies.

It is just as important to ask these same questions about the agenda of the US police state. Why have Bush and Obama removed the protection of law as a shield of the people and turned law into a weapon in the hands of the executive branch? How are Americans made safer by the overthrow of their civil liberties? Indefinite detention and execution without due process of law are the hallmarks of the tyrannical state. They are terrorism, not a protection against terrorism. Why is every communication of every American and apparently the communications of most other people in the world, including Washington’s most trusted European allies, subject to being intercepted and stored in a gigantic police state database? How does this protect Americans from terrorists?

Why is it necessary for Washington to attack the freedom of the press and speech, to run roughshod over the legislation that protects whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, to criminalize dissent and protests, and to threaten journalists such as Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Fox News reporter James Rosen? https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/opinion/another-chilling-leak-investigation.html?_r=0

How does keeping citizens ignorant of their government’s crimes make citizens safe from terrorists?

These persecutions of truth-tellers have nothing whatsoever to do with “national security” and “keeping Americans safe from terrorists.” The only purpose of these persecutions is to protect the executive branch from having its crimes revealed. Some of Washington’s crimes are so horrendous that the International Criminal Court would issue a death sentence if those guilty could be brought to trial. A government that will destroy the constitutional protections of free speech and a free press in order to prevent its criminal actions from being disclosed is a tyrannical government.

One hesitates to ask these questions and to make even the most obvious remarks out of fear not only of being put on a watch list and framed on some charge or the other, but also out of fear that such questions might provoke a false flag attack that could be used to justify the police state that has been put in place.

Perhaps that was what the Boston Marathon Bombing was. Evidence of the two brothers’ guilt has taken backseat to the government’s claims. There is nothing new about government frame-ups of patsies. What is new and unprecedented is the lockdown of Boston and its suburbs, the appearance of 10,000 heavily armed troops and tanks to patrol the streets and search without warrants the homes of citizens, all in the name of protecting the public from one wounded 19 year old kid.

Not only has nothing like this ever before happened in the US, but also it could not have been organized on the spur of the moment. It had to have been already in place waiting for the event. This was a trial run for what is to come.

Unaware Americans, especially gullible “law and order conservatives,” have no idea about the militarization of even their local police. I have watched local police forces train at gun clubs. The police are taught to shoot first not once but many times, to protect their lives first at all costs, and not to risk their lives by asking questions. This is why the 13-year old kid with the toy rifle was shot to pieces. Questioning would have revealed that it was a toy gun, but questioning the “suspect” might have endangered the precious police who are trained to take no risks whatsoever.

The police operate according to Obama’s presidential kill power: murder first then create a case against the victim.

In other words, dear American citizen, you life is worth nothing, but the police whom you pay, are not only unaccountable but also their lives are invaluable. If you get killed in their line of duty, it is no big deal. But don’t you injure a police goon thug in an act of self-defense. I mean, who do you think you are, some kind of mythical free American with rights?

Further reading:















Nov 14, 2013 - 3:17am

Where Silver fits into all of this....

The U.S. Dollar is the cornerstone of the World Fiat Currency (WFC) system and can not be replaced. The European academics said as much in their paper .


This paper suggests that the dollar is not threatened as the hegemonic international currency, and that most analysts are incapable of understanding the resilience of the dollar, not only because they ignore the theories of monetary hegemonic stability or what, more recently, has been termed the geography of money, but also as a result of an incomplete understanding of what a monetary hegemon does.

But even if it is the cornerstone, hegemony, or 'reserve currency', the U.S. Dollar is still just one of 180 or so other fiat currencies that are all strung together by Central Banks, exchanges, and international trade practices into what is functionally "ONE" World Fiat Currency (WFC).

What happens to all fiat currencies, even world-wide ones? They are always destroyed as Silver and Gold naturally return to their monetary role in the hearts and minds of whatever people the fiat currencies have been foisted upon. Which in this case, is pretty much "everybody".

Only Silver and Gold are Money

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