Robert Triffin, a Belgian-American scholar and policy advisor, was a defining voice in economics and international politics in the twentieth century. He is best known for his analysis of the vulnerabilities of the international monetary system—the “Triffin dilemma”—, but he also played a key role in the debates on European monetary integration, especially as the monetary advisor of Jean Monnet. With his proposals for a European Reserve Fund and a European currency unit, he became one of the intellectual fathers of Europe”s single currency, the euro. The biography “Robert Triffin: A Life” by Ivo Maes and Ilaria Pasotti evaluates what made Triffin a crucial figure in modern economic history. With an emphasis on the ideas that shaped the postwar international system, the book explores both the man and the mission. In addition to analyzing his work in economics and policymaking, the authors trace Triffin”s story from a very modest background, as the son of a butcher in Flobecq, who grew up through the interwar period, to a singularly influential economist in the late twentieth century. In this e-lecture, Ivo Maes will present key findings from the biography, highlighting what we can learn from Robert Triffin for today’s challenges. Several renowned experts discuss these findings and offer insights of their own. There will be ample time for Q&A with the authors and discussants.
“Robert Triffin: A Life” received the 2022 Best Book Award of AISPE, the Italian Society for the History of Economic Thought as well as the 2023 Best Book Award of ESHET, the European Society for the History of Economic Thought. “´Robert Triffin: A Life´ by Ivo Maes is a must read. It is remarkably well documented and gives a new and original perspective on one of the great monetary thinkers of our time. Ivo Maes shows how Triffin’s critique of the Bretton Woods System proved luminous and why the Triffin dilemma is still pertinent today. The readers will also be impressed by Ivo Maes’ analysis on Triffin’s resolute support for European integration, anticipating a kind of European Central Bank.”— Jean-Claude Trichet, Former President of the European Central Bank and Honorary Governor of Banque de France.