Sebastian Edward's American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold


Sebastian Edwards, professor of international economics at the University of California, Los Angeles's Anderson School of Management, has written a compelling history of one of the most important macroeconomic and public policy events of the early twentieth century—the decision to depreciate the U.S. dollar in 1933, the subsequent U.S. default on its sovereign debts, and the controversial Supreme Court ruling that upheld both. Edwards, who has written on emerging-market political economy and sovereign debt crises, provides a necessary corrective to the perception that U.S. constitutional protections of property and contracts rights have been absolute, or timeless. Indeed, his study was motivated by the 2014 New York federal district court ruling that forced Argentina to pay its sovereign debts to foreign bondholders after its 2001 default. Argentina cited the American default in its defense, though to no avail.