A free floating exchange rate, sometimes referred to as clean or pure float, is a flexible exchange rate system solely determined by market forces of demand and supply of foreign and domestic currency, and where government intervention is totally inexistent. Clean floats are a result of laissez-faire or free market economics.
Clean float is, theoretically, the best way to go. It allows countries to retain their monetary independence, which basically means they can focus on the internal aspects of their economy, and control inflation and unemployment without worrying about external aspects. However, we must take into consideration external shocks, such as oil price rises or capital flights, which can make it impossible to maintain a purely clean floating exchange rate system.
In reality, almost none of the currencies of developed countries have a clean float, as they all have some degree of support from their corresponding central bank, and so have a managed float. In fact, since most countries intervene in foreign exchange markets to some extent from time to time, these can be considered managed floating systems. The International Monetary System, which oversees the correct functioning of the international monetary system and monitors its members’ financial and economic policies, “allows” for exchange rate intervention when there are clear signs of risk to any of its member’s economy.
The following figure shows the different regimes according to four different variables: exchange rate flexibility, loss of monetary policy independence, anti-inflation effect and credibility of the exchange rate commitment: