Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

Bretton Woods Education Images/Getty Images

Imagining a New Bretton Woods

The 1944 Bretton Woods conference featured a clash between Harry Dexter White, the US representative, and John Maynard Keynes, representing a fading British Empire. Today, a straightforward question must be asked: Would Keynes’s discarded plan be more appropriate for our post-2008 multipolar world?

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The financial meltdown of 2008 prompted calls for a global financial system that curtails trade imbalances, moderates speculative capital flows, and prevents systemic contagion. That, of course, was the goal of the original Bretton Woods system. But such a system today would be both untenable and undesirable. So, what might an alternative look like?

The 1944 Bretton Woods conference featured a clash of two men and their visions: Harry Dexter White, President Franklin Roosevelt’s representative, and John Maynard Keynes, representing a fading British Empire. Unsurprisingly, White’s scheme, founded on the United States’ post-war trade surplus, which it deployed to dollarize Europe and Japan in exchange for their acquiescence to full monetary-policy discretion for the US, prevailed. And the new post-war system provided the foundation for capitalism’s finest hour – until America lost its surplus and White’s arrangement collapsed.

The question asked periodically during much of the last decade is straightforward: Would Keynes’s discarded plan be more appropriate for our post-2008 multipolar world?

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/3OcnNzU;
  1. bildt70_SAUL LOEBAFP via Getty Images_trumpukrainezelensky Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

    Impeachment and the Wider World

    Carl Bildt

    As with the proceedings against former US Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump is ultimately a domestic political issue that will be decided in the US Congress. But, unlike those earlier cases, the Ukraine scandal threatens to jam up the entire machinery of US foreign policy.

    0
  2. krueger21_trumpamericamediocre

    Making America Mediocre

    Anne O. Krueger

    America owes its economic strength to its private sector, which has long benefited from an absence of undue influence by politicians and the state. But under US President Donald Trump's administration, discretionary decisions by policymakers are increasingly giving some companies advantages over others.

    0