Beyond the Cusp

March 13, 2014

Putin Threat Harbinger of Greatest Danger to America

Putin made an unveiled, direct threat focused to cause President Obama to stop and consider if he really desires to enter a financial war with Russia when he threatened to end his nation’s practice of utilizing the Dollar as their reserve currency. In many ways such a threat is an empty one holding little credence as very few nations would accept the Russian Ruble in payment for resources or other transactions between nations and would still demand that Putin pay them in Dollars or at least Euros. But that is this very moment and the future does not promise that the dollar will continue to be the reserve currency of the world. That begs the question of what will become the world’s reserve currency and what will such a change do to the power and credibility of the United States?

There have been many in the recent few years who have sought to find an alternative to the American Dollar as the reserve currency of the world. Most of those proposing such oppose the United States though they are not adversaries on the brink of actual war. These nations all have a couple of items in common. They are all developing nations recently joining the advanced industrial world and are entering the information economic world and are struggling to be on a par with the United States. For the reason of gaining an advantage of equal footing with the United States, many of these nations have proposed a multi-currency reserve usage if not their currency replacing the Dollar. Now there are those who believe that virtual is better who talk of a world currency driven by demand to set its value such as the bitcoin. Where the bitcoin is a quaint idea and the whole concept of a virtual universal currency, such an idea has one very glaring drawback, no nation is going to go willingly to such a system that is outside the political control of governments, though such would provide a useful reality in the monetary markets of the world. Bitcoin is an unlikely choice as the originators are not quite as well connected as would be required for nations to trust such a system thus bitcoin would need to compromise with international political powers before they could be accepted as the new universal currency. Expect some more prominent and well know entities to enter the market of virtual money with Pay-Pal, which is mostly Dollar centric, having already taken steps in that direction.

Some of the major competitors to the Dollar are the European Euro; the main reason behind the European Union was to establish a trade center equal to the United States market and the establishing of a currency to rival the Dollar, the Chinese Yen and a few others. Which nations and currencies are vying for the title of the replacement currency for the Dollar is unimportant as long as the Dollar retains sufficient stability and recognized value making it the continued universally accepted currency. Even those places which have decided to accept currencies other than the Dollar still rely on the Dollar for the setting of the value of the other currencies thus even when using the Iranian, the Chinese Yen or the Euro; these currencies are accepted in trade depending on their value as measured against the Dollar. So, even if you are paying with some other currency, your bill is still being charged in Dollars and your payment is in an equivalent amount of another currency.

So, what will it take to change the reserve currency of the world? One large step would be to have OPEC begin to use a different currency for purchases of crude oil. There is a reason the Dollar is often referred to as the Petro-Dollar, because the true value of the dollar is the amount of oil that can be purchased with a set amount of Dollars. Thus far, the only places accepting alternate payment for crude largely have been Iran. The reasons are obvious; Iran is attempting to weaken the Dollar as part of their offensive against the United States and the Western nations. The real test would be if the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and especially Saudi Arabia were to stop accepting Dollars and choose another currency or group of currencies in payment for their crude oil. Even should these nations simply start accepting alternate currencies it would weaken the value of the Dollar and would be the initial step to the devaluing of the Dollar to the point that it would be dropped as the reserve currency of the world. If you question what affect such an event would have on the United States if the Dollar of today ceased to be the reserve currency of trade tomorrow, you only need look to the nation that once before minted the dollar that was the reserve currency of the world, Spain. The Spanish dollar which was the originator of the phrase “pieces of eight” as it was a bar of gold that was able of being separated into eight equal pieces that was the currency of trade. Part of the reason behind this was the Spanish exacted a serious penalty for anybody caught shaving their dollar, death. We need to remember the death of the Roman currency system and possibly a large contributor to the death of their empire was the shaving of Roman monies by, at first, the most unscrupulous and eventually it becoming almost commonplace such that it became necessary to weigh each Roman coin before accepting its value.

The Dollar is currently being shaved by a new destructive force, inflation. Because the United States has adopted the practice of simply printing monies in order to finance the government stimulation of the economy, a practice with a dodgy history and limited effect currently, there is going to come a time of rampant inflation in the United States which will result in a drastic devaluation of the Dollar. This devaluing of the Dollar will hurt far more peoples than simply the American public; it will hurt any nation holding large reserves of Dollars. This looming threat is also behind many nations’ nervousness with holding any excessively large amount of Dollars or American certificates or bonds which are Dollar based. This is what urged China to finally stop purchasing more American debt by buying bonds backed by Dollars. This, in turn, led to the Federal Reserve purchasing the Treasury Notes necessary to print additional Dollars, a practice which has artificially sustained the stock market prices and is leading them to new heights. This is an empty valuation as with time the Dollar will have to fall compared to the other currencies of the world which will make the higher priced stock market return to a value that truly represents its actual worth. The real fallout of this eventuality are the other nations whose currencies are directly tied to the Dollar and any nation with excessive holdings in Dollars as well as all those heavily invested in American companies’ stocks which are valued in Dollars. The first signs of the near universality of the effect of a devalued Dollar have been displayed each time the Federal Reserve had threatened to stop its constant Quantitative Easing which is a euphemism for making money, Dollars, out of thin air, and never a good idea. The nations whose currencies took direct hits resulting from such Federal Reserve threats are the nations most vulnerable due to their heavy investment in Dollars. This is what was behind the Chinese fire sale selling off a large portion of their Dollar reserves a few years back. That sell off came within six months of China refusing to purchase additional Treasury Notes, i.e. Dollars. Yes, the Dollar has become extremely vulnerable and yes, the Dollar may very well be on the verge of a collapse and no, we have no idea what the far ranging effects on the economies and currencies of the world when the American Dollar falls beyond the cusp into a great chasm of debt riddled valuelessness. We may not have to wait decades for an answer, but it would be best to never be in the position of realizing that everything we thought had value had become worth the cloth/paper it was printed on and not the value the pretty designs and numbers inferred. That will be a day of reckoning, a great and painful reckoning.

Beyond the Cusp

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