Friday, November 21, 2008

The global economic summit: After the fall

World leaders are meeting in Washington, DC, to fix finance. They have their work cut out

THE leaders arriving in Washington, DC, for this weekend’s economic summit are being presumptuous. If they want what they are calling Bretton Woods 2 to live up to the original, which took place in New Hampshire overshadowed by war and the Depression, it will have to establish a new economic order for the capitalist world. In 1944 that meant creating the IMF, the World Bank and a body to oversee world trade. Imagine Hank Paulson, America’s treasury secretary, as John Maynard Keynes; or picture Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister, as Winston Churchill (as Mr Brown himself secretly may), and you get a sense of the task ahead.

The Bretton Woodsmen of 2008 are grabbing the credit before they have earned it—rather as all those subprime householders did. More than two years of gruelling technical work laid the ground for the wartime conference of officials and finance ministers (prime ministers and presidents had other things to deal with). By contrast, the leaders gathering this weekend from the G20, a mix of industrial and emerging countries, plus the European Union, have cobbled together an agenda in a few frenetic weeks. They will doubtless produce no shortage of promises. Just what these are worth will depend on sweat and summits yet to come. ...


[Source: The Economist: News analysis