Discussion paper

DP13465 The Trials of the Trilemma: International Finance 1870-2017

In this paper we survey the history of international finance spanning a century and a half. We start by characterizing capital flows in the long run, organizing our discussion around six facts relating to the volume and volatility of capital flows, measured in both net and gross terms. We then connect up the discussion with exchange rates and monetary policies. The organizing framework for this section is the macroeconomic trilemma. We describe where countries situated themselves relative to the trilemma over time and consider the political economy of their choices. Finally, we study the connections between international finance and economic and financial stability. We present consistent measures of growth and debt crises over the century and a half covered in this paper and discuss how their incidence is related to those institutional and political circumstances and, more generally, to the nature of the international monetary and financial regime.


Esteves, R and B Eichengreen (2019), ‘DP13465 The Trials of the Trilemma: International Finance 1870-2017‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13465. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13465