The role of money in the global economy is one of the big themes of this decade. Gold is on the up. The euro is falling apart. And, perhaps most importantly of all, the dollar DXY +0.52% is in long-term decline.

The crisis in the euro zone may have distracted our attention from it for a while, but the relentless dethroning of U.S. currency the dollar as a global reserves currency is proceeding apace.

In reality, there are two real candidates to replace the dollar.

One is the renminbi. The world’s reserve currency is usually the money that circulates in the world’s biggest economy. That was true of the pound in the 19th century, and the dollar in the 20th. And if the Chinese economy is the world’s biggest, as it soon will be, that is going to be the currency that really counts.

Another possibility is a currency unit based on a basket of commodities. After all, raw materials are the one thing that every country absolutely has to have access to. And every form of money is a proxy for real stuff in one way or another. A unit that was one part gold, one part oil, one part iron ore, and one part rice, would look like something that was going to hold its value for a long period of time.

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