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By François Chesnais

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De Brunhofff argues that the dollar is simply a ‘stand-in’ for world money. It has ‘benchmark status [which] requires a common assent from countries that compete with the USA. 46 Bretton Woods was already the result of a ‘common assent’ obtained despite Keynes’s misgivings. After its demise there was a period, now forgotten by all apart from historians, when the US had to negotiate with other countries the Plaza (1985) and Louvre (1987) agreements so as to stabilise the dollar exchange rate, in particular vis-à-vis the yen, fijirst upward and then downward.

A major response by the Atlantic rim economies to the 1974–6 crisis was the recycling of petrodollars engineered in the City in the form of syndicated loans by consortiums of large banks. These included US banks still hampered by provisions of the 1933 Banking Act, but US banks also made some direct loans to Mexico in particular. The benefijiciaries of the loans were politically and economically subordinate semi-colonial Third World countries and in some cases dictatorial political regimes. 25 The debt of developing countries multiplied by 12 between 1968 and 1980.

Then there is the question of generality. , are a component of the profijits of fijinancial corporations and account for part of their increase. 30 However the explosion of consumer credit and of student loans remains fairly specifijic to the US and to countries which have adopted the same model. The Liikanen report on European banks found that since 1999 the relative importance of ‘customer loans’ (loans to households for mortgage and consumer credit lumped up with loans to non-fijinancial corporations) has fallen regularly and done so particularly rapidly after 2008.

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