Friday, November 14, 2008

No Bretton Woods

Regardless of any questions of ideology, it is very unlikely that the spirit of Bretton Woods will be honored at tomorrow's G20 meeting. This is immediately apparent from the background piece by BBC News Economics reporter (so nice to see at least one news institution respecting that noun!) Steve Schifferes:

In the summer of 1944, delegates from 44 countries met in the midst of World War II to reshape the world's international financial system.

The location of the meeting - in the plush Mount Washington Hotel in rural Bretton Woods, New Hampshire - was designed to ensure that the delegates would have no distractions, and no pressure from lobbyists or Congressmen, as they worked on their plans for post-war reconstruction.

Can we expect any of the G20 delegates to forego all of their "instruments of communication," not to mention the use of those instruments to "test the waters" of external "sources of influence," at any meeting these days? The irony, of course, is that the reason for the G20 meeting has as much to do with a "crisis of connectivity" (on a global scale) as it has to do with the more palpable economic crisis. It is not just that technology-enabled globalization has made us vulnerable to what I have called "the discontents of connectivity;" it is also that those discontents have exposed an addictive behavior that detaches us all from the sustained attention required for serious deliberation. These are just not conditions conducive to that critical approach to the whole nature of political economy that the current economic crisis demands.

In reviewing my archives I discovered that I have often relied on Schifferes to provide a useful context where economic reporting is concerned. Thus, I found myself returning to a post I had written in which, through Schifferes, I had learned about the Growth Commission. I suspect that I would feel a lot more confident about my own economic future if those guys were on this case, doing serious nuts-and-bolts deliberation rather than providing a forum for a ceremony of the rich and mighty! Michael Spence, how can we get your attention when it is so much needed?

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