Though best known in recent years as the author of fiscal entertainments (Zero Coupon, 1993, etc.), the Canadian-born Erdman is a bona fide economist and former Swiss banker.
If not invariably prophetic, his periodic observations on the Global Village's monetary systems are always worth attention for their lucid explications of a complex subject. The semi-sensational subtitle accurately reflects Erdman's focus on the long-range implications of the recent run on the US dollar, precipitated largely by the collapse of the Mexican peso and accompanied by a sharp rise in the value of the Japanese yen. Having outlined the major events of what he dubs the currency crisis of 1995, the author sorts through the conflicting claims as to who or what was to blame, subsequently ticking off winners (US exporters) and losers (mainly Japanese investors who had acquired American assets at inflated prices). Moving on to an after-the-fall audit of money markets, Erdman assesses the roles played by so- called speculators (commercial banks as well as hedge funds) and trade blocs (the EU, NAFTA, et al.). Offered as well are worst-case scenarios for an appreciably more competitive but debt-burdened US and a recession-ridden, deflation-afflicted Japan. That, however, is unlikely to happen, according to Erdman. He reminds us that Japan's much-vaunted economy is but one-half to three-fifths the size of America's in terms of purchase power parity, and notes as well that America retains comparative advantages in entrepreneurship, availability of venture capital, and minimal regulatory constraints. Erdman suggests that America (in partnership with a more open, less mercantile Japan) will provide the responsible leadership that ensures a prosperous tomorrow for the wider world.
An accessible interpretive briefing on currency exchange rates and why they matter to a host of constituencies ranging from policy makers to consumers.