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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's not easy being green

While we've been distracted by the war in Iraq, another, more historically significant phenomenon has been taking place. That's the decline of the dollar.
Throughout my lifetime the dollar was the only currency you could take anywhere in the world and know it could be exchanged for everything from food to weapons. Not any more. Having been warned by Mark Ellen, who recently found that they wouldn't take dollars in Jordan, I took Euros to Mali and changed them for the local currency.
None of this has anything to do with politics. It's to do with value. As Joseph E. Stiglitz outlines in a very readable piece in the new Vanity Fair, the dollar has declined in value against the Euro by 40% in the last six years. The consequences of this shift are seen everywhere - from the dramatic decline in the value of US aid to Africa to the increasing number of US rock acts who are playing over here because they can make money to the fact that for the first time in my experience I did a job for an American publisher recently and they couldn't afford to pay me.