If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times

Wriston, Walter B.


The Value of a Dollar


At this time, what's your assessment of the package the Carter Administration put together to alleviate the strain on the dollar?

The dollar is battered periodically on the exchange markets because foreign traders don't see any consistent economic policy coming out of Washington. One member of the Federal Reserve Board said, "We're going to pump up the money supply if there's any slowing of the economy." Others guaranteed that recession would cause no discomfort, but they also saw no attenuation of inflation. The result was that the traders sold the dollar and moved into what they perceived to be harder currencies.

The amplitude of fluctuation in the dollar's exchange value got to be so great that the Fed put together a package to stabilize it. On balance, I think it's worked out pretty well. We've put a lot of chits around the world. We've issued a lot of foreign-denominated bonds that we're going to have to repay. So, we needed to do something. So far, on a temporary basis, it's been fairly effective.

Would you say this should have been implemented sooner?

On a hindsight basis, if we had articulated our policy better, it wouldn't have been necessary at all. The foreign exchange market is so huge that just putting 10, 20, or 30 billion dollars at the margin really doesn't mean much. It's about ten minutes of trading. What would mean something is a clear, logical statement from the authorities that they really do care about the value of the dollar.

  • The document was created from a compilation of interviews and question and answer segments with Walter B. Wriston which was later compiled into "If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times" in 1980. The original speech is located in MS134.001.034.00018.
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 Title Page
If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
I: Getting Down to Fundamentals
The Big Cop-out
You Can't Go Bail for Everyone
Risk Is What It's All About
II: Some Basic Ills of the Body Politic
Lincoln Wouldn't Have Made It
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
The Pitfalls of Single-issue Politics
Expect To Get Zapped
The Perils of Legal Pollution
The Injustice of Our Tax System
Those Wonderful People Who Bring You Inflation
Stop the Presses
Silly Premises Lead to Nutty Conclusions
Easier Said Than Done
III: New York, New York
New York City Is Alive And Well
The Road Back
IV: Careers
Rx for Happiness
Good Forward Planning
Dull Job?
A Simple Matter of Survival
Making It at Citibank
What Fast Track?
No Hiding Place
V: Once Around the World Quickly
South Africa
China: A Matter of Timing
The Real Significance of Iran
Iran and the Money Markets
Fashions in Country-criticizing
VI: The Global Financial Scene
The Elusive Eurodollar
De Facto Payments Mechanism
Too Big To Move
The Foreign Exchange Game
They Can't Leave the System
Baskets of Money
Swiss Francs
The Value of a Dollar
Not a Loss Since 1897
A Rational View of LDC Loans
Free Trade Benefits Consumers
The Destructive Costs of Regulation
The Big Rip-off
A Real Entitlement
Can Regulations Prevent Bum Loans?
The Insidious Side of Controls
Competition in Regulation
VIII: The Shape of Things To Come
Not As Big As You Think
What Lobby?
Armageddon Is Late, as Usual
Some Simple Facts about Interest Rates
An Expensive Luxury
How Big Is Big?
What We Did Yesterday Won't Work Tomorrow
A Matter of Semantics
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
Privacy: A Serious Problem
The Unseen Revolution
Things Are Going To Be Different
Take the Handcuffs off Everybody
The Gray Areas of Lending
No Mouse under the Rug
Thank God We Don't Have National Banking
Competition Keeps You Awake
Accounting for Loan Losses
Not a Utility
People Like It
Computer Frauds
Some Final Words on Responsibility
About the Author