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. drew47_Drew AngererGetty Images_trumpgiulianasmiling Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Will Trump Be Removed from Office?

    Elizabeth Drew

    Assuming the US House of Representatives votes to impeach President Donald Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct is now truly in question.

    0
  2. rudd9_Darrian TraynorGetty Images_climateprotestburningaustralia Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

    Unsustainable Australia

    Kevin Rudd

    Before the current conservative government came to power in 2013, Australia was well-positioned to make the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. But now, the country is heading in reverse, and has already fallen behind most developed countries, and even China, on reducing emissions and building resilience against climate change.

    1

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