Two competing, free floating, currencies
My colleague and friend, Prof. Pedro Schwartz (President, Mont Pelerin Society), recently published a letter in the ‘Financial Times’ (‘Three conditions for a two-currency system’ praising the monetary system in Peru. Rather than a purely dollarised economy (either de facto or de iure), Peruvian authorities allow for the circulation of two currencies; the national currency (the ‘Sol’) and the US dollar. As Prof. Schwartz specifies in the letter, the system has been working rather well since its introduction in 1990, provided that three main conditions are met:
– Free movement of capital so Peruvians are free to put their income in either currency and take their money out of the country if they didn’t trust the national authorities.
– Both currencies freely float in the market, so their value clearly reflects the confidence of money holders on the issuer.
– And, in order to avoid the expel of the national currency from the market, the national central bank conducts an independent monetary policy focused on maintaining the purchasing power of the currency; which has resulted in a quite moderate rate of inflation in the last years. Doing so will foster the demand for the national currency on long term basis and thus make it attractive for the public.
Nothing really new so far; this type of two or even more currency systems worked well in the past all across the world: one currency was used for international trade, another for savings and possibly another for small transactions. The government usually tried to control the parities but the price of the different currencies fluctuated in the market according to their purchasing power.
Those familiar with this blog won’t be surprised when I say that I do find this alternative monetary system a more desirable regime to both introduce more competition in the monetary system and thus discipline money issuers more effectively, as well as provide a convenient institutional tool for Euro zone member states in trouble to timely adjust their local costs and prices without the need to be expelled from the Euro (more details on this question here and here). Of course, this doesn’t mean that a devaluation of the local currency will solve all the problems, if not followed by credible and sound monetary and fiscal policies in the future under the three-condition system set out above.
PS. I am currently working on a research paper with Prof. Schwartz to apply this system to the Euro zone (to be continued … soon).