Bob Cropf

Globalization and the Great Recession

In economics, Obama on March 31, 2009 at 12:47 PM

Back in the golden era before 2001, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took a hands-off approach to capital controls imposed by national governments. As Sarah Anderson points out:

As part of a broader market fundamentalist agenda, the IMF and the U.S. government once galloped side by side in a crusade to eliminate these controls, which are various measures to reduce volatility by taxing or prohibiting certain cross-border investments. The IMF banned them through loan agreements, while the U.S. government severely restricted their use through bilateral investment treaties and the investment chapters in trade agreements.

The thought was if free trade worked, why not deregulate the flow of capital as well?

The problem was the countries that fare the best in times of financial meltdowns like the one we’re experiencing just so happen to be the countries with more restrictions on capital. The point was empirically proven in the Asian Crisis in the late 1990s. The IMF seemed to learn this lesson and became less dogmatic on the point of regulating capital. The same, however, could not be said for the previous administration, which followed a market fundamentalist line on this issue.

Now, the current administration has an opportunity to reverse the failed policy of the past and follow the lead of economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman who favor allowing nation-states to impose tighter controls on capital flight. So far, the administration has not said too much on the subject and it is hard to read too much into previous statements on similar topics by Obama and his economic policy advisers. (Tim Geithner is on record, however, as supporting continued deregulation–another reason to suspect his good judgment at Treasury).

As the G-20 gets underway this week, one can hope that this issue will be revisited. Ideally, there will be a consensus among the world leaders to convene another meeting to tackle the question of capital controls in the near future.

BC

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: