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Robert Triffin (October 5, 1911, Flobecqmarker, Belgiummarker – February 23, 1993, Ostendmarker, Belgiummarker) was a Belgian economist best known for his critique of the Bretton Woods systemmarker, later known as Triffin's dilemma.

He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Universitymarker in 1938 and taught there from 1939 until 1942. He held positions in the U.S.marker Federal Reserve System (1942-1946), the International Monetary Fundmarker (1946-1948), and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (1948-1951), now the OECD. In 1951 he became a professor of economics at Yale Universitymarker.

In 1960 he went before the United States Congress warning of serious flaws in the Bretton Woods System. His theory was based on observing the dollar glut, or the accumulation of the United States dollar outside of the U.S. Under the Bretton Woods agreement the U.S. had pledged to convert dollars into gold, but by the early 1960s the glut had caused more dollars to be available outside the U.S. than gold was in its Treasury. As a result the U.S. had to run balance of payments deficits to supply the world with dollar reserves that kept liquidity for their increased wealth. However, running the balance of payments deficits in the long term would erode confidence in the dollar. As a result over the long term he predicted that the system could not maintain both liquidity and confidence, a theory later to be known as the Triffin dilemma. It was largely ignored until 1971, when what he had hypothesized came to be, forcing U.S. President Richard Nixon to halt convertibility of the United States dollar into gold (see Nixon Shock). This shock led to the end of the Bretton Woods System.

Although he became a U.S. citizen in 1942, 1977 saw Triffin reclaim his Belgian citizenship and return to Europe. There he was a staunch supporter of European integration and helped to develop the European Monetary System and supported the idea of a central bank which would later come in the form of the European Central Bankmarker.


  • Monopolistic Competition and General Equilibrium Theory, 1940.
  • "National central banking and the international economy", 1947, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System.
  • Europe and the Money Muddle, 1957.
  • Gold and the Dollar Crisis: The future of convertibility, 1960.
  • Statistics of Sources and Uses of Finance, 1948-1958, with Stuvel et al., 1960.
  • "Intégration économique européenne et politique monetaire", 1960, Revue Econ Politique
  • The Evolution of the International Monetary System: historical appraisal and future perspectives, 1964.
  • The World Money Maze: National currencies in international payments, 1966.
  • Our International Monetary System: Yesterday, today and tomorrow, 1968.
  • "The Thrust of History in International Monetary Reform", 1969, Foreign Affairs
  • "The Use of SDR Finance for Collectively Agreed Purposes", BNLQR
  • "The international role and fate of the dollar", 1978, Foreign Affairs
  • "The European Monetary System: Tombstone or cornerstone?", in: The international monetary system: forty years after Bretton Woods. Proceedings of a conference held at Bretton Woods, N.H., May 1984, 1984
  • "The future of the European Monetary System and the ECU", 1984, CEPS Papers
  • " The international accounts of the United States and their impact upon the rest of the world", 1985, BNLQR
  • "Une Banque Monétaire Européenne avec des fonctions de banque centrale, 1986, Répères, Bulletin Économique et Financier
  • "L’avenir du système monétaire et financier international : gestion de crises chroniques ou réformes fondamentales?, 1986, Répères, Bulletin Économique et Financier
  • "The IMS (International Monetary System... or Scandal?) and the EMS (European Monetary System)", 1987, BNLQR
  • "The European Monetary System in the World Economy", 1989, Rivista di politica economica"
  • "L’interdépendance du politique et de l’économique dans le scandale monétaire mondial : diagnostic et prescription", 1989, Répères, Bulletin Économique et Financier
  • "The International Monetary System : 1949-1989", 1990, ECU Newsletter Torino.



  • "Triffin, Robert." Britannica Book of the Year, 1994. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6 Apr. 2006 />.

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