Redesigning Capitalism

Today’s global recession marks the end of growth fueled only by credit. Although untying the knot that an overweening financial sector has drawn around the economy will take time - indeed, there is still no consensus that this needs to be done - the recession at least affords us the opportunity to consider the root causes of the current crisis.

PARIS – When the heads of state of the world’s 20 largest economies come together on short notice, as they just did in Washington, D.C., it is clear how serious the current global crisis is. They did not decide much, except to call for improved monitoring and regulation of financial flows. More importantly, they committed themselves to launching a lasting process to reform the world’s financial system.

Of course, those who dreamed of a Bretton Woods II were disappointed. But the original Bretton Woods framework was not built in a day; indeed, the 1944 conference was preceded by two and a half years of preparatory negotiations, which is probably the minimum needed to decide such weighty issues. The recent G-20 summit occurred with virtually no real preliminary work.

Three tasks must now be addressed. First, a floor must be put under the international financial system in order to stop its collapse. Second, new regulations are needed once the system revives, because if it remains the same way, it will only produce new crises. Finding the right mix will not be easy. For 25 years, the world has experienced a huge financial crisis every five years, each seemingly with its own cause.

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