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Wonking Out: Exploring the Future of the US Dollar

Apr 17, 2023

Hello and welcome to “English for Economists,” episode 71. Today we’re going to talk about a recent article published by Paul Krugman in the New York Times newsletter on February 3rd. The title of the article is “Wonking Out: Is the Dollar’s Dominance Under Threat?“. In this article, he explores the future of the US dollar as a global reserve currency.

Wonking Out

So what on earth does “Wonking Out” mean? The term “wonking” refers to discussing complex and technical issues related to public policy or economics. And a ‘wonk’ is someone who is highly knowledgeable and passionate about these issues. The term is informal, but it is frequently found in newspaper and magazine articles. It is a funny-sounding word, isn’t it? And remember, it is informal. But if you are someone who is passionate about public policy or economics, guess what? You are a wonk. And if you get involved in a technical discussion with somebody about economics, you could say that you are “wonking out”.

In this article, Krugman explores whether or not the US dollar is at risk of losing its position as the dominant global currency. Krugman notes that while there is recent speculation about the future of the dollar’s international dominance, this is not a new question. He wrote about it over four decades ago and concluded that an end to dollar dominance was possible but not probable. He also noted that it wouldn’t make much of a difference even if it did happen.

Krugman also discusses the recent hype around cryptocurrencies and how some members of the crypto cult believe that Bitcoin or one of its rivals will replace the dollar any day now. He also explores the idea that some regimes will turn away from the dollar to protect themselves against sanctions imposed by the US.

Krugman concludes that the dollar’s dominance isn’t under threat and even if it were, it wouldn’t be a big deal, or in other words, it wouldn’t be that important for the US economy.

Idiomatic Expression: A Drop in the Bucket

This is a good opportunity to introduce you to a useful idiomatic expression. Listen closely, the idiomatic expression we’re going to focus on today is “a drop in the bucket.” This phrase refers to a small and insignificant amount in comparison to the whole. In the context of the article, Krugman argues that the potential loss of dollar dominance would have minimal impact on the US economy, making it “a drop in the bucket.”

English Classes for Economists

Remember friends, if you work in areas related to the economy and you want to improve your English, I offer private English classes tailored specifically to your needs. In these classes, we’ll focus on improving your language skills related to economics and finance. Visit my website, EnglishForEconomists.com, for more information. I recently had a few spaces open up in my schedule, so if you are interested, let me know.

Vocabulary Review

In summary, today you learned about:

The term “wonking” and how it refers to discussing complex and technical issues related to public policy or economics. And a ‘wonk’ is someone who is highly knowledgeable and passionate about these issues. The term is informal, but it is frequently found in newspaper and magazine articles.

The idiomatic expression “a drop in the bucket,” which refers to a small and insignificant amount in comparison to the whole.

That’s it for today’s episode of “English for Economists.” Thank you for listening, and I’ll be back soon with more language lessons for economists.

 

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