Ritschl, Albrecht (2012) The German transfer problem, 1920-33: a sovereign-debt perspective. European Review of History, 19 (6). pp. 943-964. ISSN 1350-7486
Weimar Germany's economic plight has oftentimes been blamed on reparations in simplistic fashion. Alternative interpretations ignored reparations entirely, instead emphasizing gold standard constraints or wage increases in excess of productivity growth. This paper argues for a strong but subtle link between Germany's slump and these policies. Based on sovereign debt theory, it provides an incentive-based interpretation of the transfer problem, the compensation of reparations by counteracting capital inflows. I argue that the German transfer problem resulted from transfer protection under the Dawes Plan, which gave commercial credits seniority over reparations. This gave Germany a strategic incentive to drive out reparations through foreign borrowing. The Young Plan of 1929 implied a reversal of this seniority scheme, causing a sudden stop in the balance of payments that lasted to the late 1930s. The Young Plan could only have worked in the absence of an international recession; attempts to salvage it in 1931 were necessarily futile.
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