Press Release - Working Paper 240

On the origins of the Triffin dilemma: Empirical business cycle analysis and imperfect competition theory

Robert Triffin became famous with his trenchant analyses of the vulnerabilities of the Bretton Woods system. These are still at the center of many discussions today. This paper argues that there is a remarkable continuity in Triffin's work. From his earliest writings, Triffin developed a vision that the international adjustment process was not functioning according to the classical mechanisms. This view was based on thorough empirical analyses of the Belgian economy during the Great Depression and shaped by a business cycle perspective with an emphasis on the disequilibria and the transition period. His doctoral dissertation on imperfect competition theory and his Latin American experience further reinforced this basic view.