Monday, October 20, 2008

Bretton Woods bis?

And yes, while speaking of Sarkozy's recent revitalization (see previous post), I mustn't omit this weekend's get-together at Camp David, where Sarko, Barroso, and George W. Bush shared a dinner of roast lame duck and black-eye peas. "Sarko wrests a summit from a reluctant Bush," the headline writers want to scream. The Europeans, they say, want a "Bretton Woods bis." The only problem with this formulation is that the situation is quite different from what it was in 1944, when the United States was on the verge of emerging victorious and rich from a war that left much of the rest of the developed world prostrate and poor. Many years had passed since the collapse of the global economy in the 1930s. Bretton Woods was thus an opportunity to take stock, to consider the failures of the past with suitable perspective and in a world ripe for a new order.

The current crisis is still unfolding. Its causes are not fully understood. Agreement on remedies is unlikely in the short term. And what is needed now are emergency measures, not overambitious makeovers. Sarkozy's activist instincts served him well in putting together a European bank rescue plan, but his summit proposal thus far seems long on showmanship and short on substance. Even Bush seems to recognize this, and I rarely give Bush credit for anything. Hence his footdragging. In any case, it would be absurd, not to say impossible, to make any commitments until a new administration is in place in the U.S.


Leo said...

Art, I am not sure I fully agree with you.
..."Its causes are not fully understood", maybe not fully, but clearly the folly of a lethal mixture of financial under-regulation, low interest rates and their attendant excessive leveraging are the root causes of this fiasco.
Also the chief merit of Sarkos's proposals is to involve the emerging economies which have been kept at arms length from all recent concerted actions.
I do agree there will be no short term remedy, but a fast kick-off of the renewal process will set the stage for a long term committment of the new US Adminsitration.

Anonymous said...

Given that Bush is on his way out, I can't imagine he'd be in a position to commit the US to such an important reform of the global financial institutions. He has no de facto authority and the GOP is on the ropes as we speak...
For sure, the unfolding events can't wait for the US gov't to be "ready", that is, to be operational in January. I should hope that even Bush recognizes that now is the time of preparation not decision.

Chris P.

Anonymous said...

Unusually Art, I can't agree with your sentiments at all. Bush isn't dragging his feet because of any highly thought out process going on in the minds of his advisers. There is nothing short of a concerted action to ensure that the singular reason for this whole debacle, the lack of oversight/regulation, does not become the touchstone for the solution that it ought to be. The solution, for those people at least, must not lead to more oversight and regulation. I believe it to be that simple. The idea that Bush cannot either speak with both presidential candidates or even include them in discussions when a disaster of this magnitude occurs, strikes me as nothing more than a diversion.

Anonymous said...

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