The Information Society: From Gutenberg to S.W.I.F.T.

Wriston, Walter B.


There are a few things that we do know based upon past experience. One of these certainties was described more than 40 years ago by Jacob Viner, in his classic work on the gold exchange standard. He wrote that state intervention in private international markets leads "with a certain degree of inevitability to the injection of a political element into all international transactions." The presence of this political element necessarily implies a "marked increase in the potentiality of economic disputes to generate international frictions."

This principle is as old as time and as new as the Soviet pipeline controversy. History is replete with evidence to prove his point again and again. Indeed it was not until the world moved away from mercantilism and toward a freer market system that the developing countries had any hope of bettering the lot of their people. It was, in fact, the Euromarket that arose, unbidden by government and untouched by regulation, knowing neither color nor country, that gave access to the credits which permitted some poor countries to double their standard of living in a decade. This was a feat without parallel in history but somehow it never gets favorable mention. It was this market which took the initial financial impact of the oil shock and transferred, with only minor casualties and in a short time frame, the most massive amounts of financial assets in history. It turned a crisis which could not be managed by anybody into a market adjustment process that let the world survive, albeit with scars.

  • The document was created from the speech, "The Information Society: From Gutenberg to S.W.I.F.T.," written by Walter B. Wriston for the S.W.I.F.T. Conference SIBOS '82 on 23 September 1982. The original speech is located in MS134.001.005.00004.
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