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The Next Phase of Finance

Today’s strengthening economic recovery has not overcome the understandable but devastating loss of trust in the financial system that followed the crisis a decade ago. Restoring trust will require reasserting control over the financial sector, to ensure that it is serving the economy, not the other way around.

WASHINGTON, DC – The decade since the global financial crisis has been tumultuous, to say the least. True, no great war has erupted, and we have more or less avoided the mistakes of the Great Depression, which led in the 1930s to greater protectionism, bank failures, severe austerity, and a deflationary environment. But renewed market tensions indicate that these risks have not been eradicated so much as papered over.

In a sense, the story of the 2008 financial crisis begins when the global order was created from the ashes of World War II. Initiatives like the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), the Marshall Plan, and the European Economic Community supported the reconstruction of significant portions of the world economy. Despite the Cold War (or perhaps because of it), they also re-started the globalization that WWII had brought to a halt.

This globalization process was interrupted during the late 1960s and early 1970s, owing to the Vietnam War, the suspension of the US dollar’s convertibility into gold, the 1973 oil price shock, and the great stagflation. But the United States and the United Kingdom then underwent a kind of conservative revolution and a revival of neoliberal economic policies, including widespread deregulation, trade liberalization, and unprecedented capital-account openness.