Zbigniew Klimiuk, Institute of Labour and Social Studies, Warsaw, Poland



The subject of the article is an analysis of the role of the US dollar in the development of international trade and the world economy during the period of the Bretton Woods monetary system (1944–1971). The international monetary system existing at that time was, in principle, a gold exchange standard based mainly on the national currency of the United States. However, a relatively small role was also played by other currencies including, in particular, the pound sterling. It should be noted that the Bretton Woods rules did not match the conditions in the world economy which emerged after World War II. The  main areas of  criticism concerned such assumptions as the maintenance of an official fixed price for gold, or a too narrowly interpreted postulate for the  stability of  the  exchange rate. On  the  other hand, it  should be noted that the introduction of the stability of exchange rates and the abolition of restrictions on payments were fundamentally sound decisions. They led in fact to the minimisation of a risk inherent in international trade and its rapid growth. One should also emphasise the fact that from the very beginning, in the international gold based monetary system there was an internal contradiction (paradox), which eventually led to its collapse. This was namely the fact that the growth in world trade created a growing demand for international liquidity. This was tantamount to a necessity to maintain a permanent balance of payments deficit in respect of the country whose currency was considered the key currency. At the same time, the growing volume of the US currency resulted in an increasing crisis of confidence in the dollar.