Skip to main content
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. benami154_Yousef MasoudSOPA ImagesLightRocket via Getty Images_palestine Yousef Masoud/SOPA IMAGES/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Forgetting Palestine

    Shlomo Ben-Ami

    The two-state solution is virtually dead in the water, and the international community has largely abandoned the Palestinian cause. At this point, there is little to stop Israel from cementing the one-state reality that its right-wing government has long sought, regardless of whether that leads to a permanent civil war.

  2. sachs313_SebastionBozonAFPGettyImages_EUflagtrump Sebastion Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

    Europe Must Oppose Trump

    Jeffrey D. Sachs

    European leaders should recognize that a significant majority of Americans reject Trump’s malignant narcissism. By opposing Trump and defending the international rule of law, Europeans and Americans together can strengthen world peace and transatlantic amity for generations to come.

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