Losing Our Marbles in the New Century? The Great Rebalancing in Historical Perspective

59 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2006

See all articles by Christopher M. Meissner

Christopher M. Meissner

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics and Politics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alan M. Taylor

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2006

Abstract

Great attention is now being paid to global imbalances, the growing U.S. current account deficit financed by growing surpluses in the rest of the world. How can the issue be understood in a more historical perspective? We seek a meaningful comparison between the two eras of globalization: then (the period 1870 to 1913) and now (the period since the 1970s). We look at the two hegemons in each era: Britain then, and the United States now. And adducing historical data to match what we know from the contemporary record, we proceed in the tradition of New Comparative Economic History to see what lessons the past might have for the present. We consider two of the most controversial and pressing questions in the current debate. First, are current imbalances being sustained, at least in part, by return differentials? And if so, is this reassuring? Second, how will adjustment take place? Will it be a hard or soft landing? Pessimistically, we find no historical evidence that return differentials last forever, even for hegemons. Optimistically, we find that adjustments to imbalances in the past have generally been smooth, even under a regime as hard as the gold standard.

Keywords: Current account adjustment, exorbitant privilege, global imbalances, return differentials

JEL Classification: F20, F30, F32, F40, F50, N10, N20

Suggested Citation

Meissner, Christopher M. and Taylor, Alan M., Losing Our Marbles in the New Century? The Great Rebalancing in Historical Perspective (November 2006). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 5917, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=954146

Christopher M. Meissner

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics and Politics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/faculty/meissner/index.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Alan M. Taylor (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

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Davis, CA 95616-8578
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530-752-9382 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/amtaylor/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

HOME PAGE: http://nber.org

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://cepr.org

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