Polemics & Exchanges

On Spain

Joseph E. Fallon’s article “The American Myth of World War I” (Vital Signs, January) contained a statement suggesting that the United States, in displacing Spain as an imperial power, had taken on some of Spain’s characteristics.

In one respect, there is a striking similarity between Spain’s century of imperialism (the 16th) and America’s (the 20th).  Each country suddenly found a source of wealth to finance her wars.  In Spain’s case, it was the gold of Mexico and Peru.  The money did nothing for the economic development of Spain, and, when it was spent, Spain’s days of glory ended.

In the case of the United States, it was the world’s adoption of the dollar as the global currency, which began with the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, at which foreign governments agreed to accept dollars with the assurance that they could redeem them at any time for gold.  This set the stage for the greatest governmental spending spree in history, one that continues to this day.

When President Nixon refused to allow foreign governments to exchange their dollars for gold in 1971, the party should have ended.  Foreign central banks, however, continued to support our currency in order to protect their exports to the United States, thus feeding America’s addiction to their...

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