For the next three days, David Brancaccio and I are in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire with some high IQ folks who are looking at ways to make the world financial system safer. It’s a conscious evocation of the original Bretton Woods conference, which created the post-World-War-II economic order, but also a sequel to a kick-off meeting held last year in Cambridge by the brand-new Institute for New Economic Thinking.
“Last year we profiled what was wrong with markets,” says INET executive director Robert Johnson. “This year, we’re actually looking at flaws in governance.”
Johnson says that change is in large part because this is just a more international group: along with heavies like Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and Director of the White House Economic Council Larry Summers, there’s former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, top economists and officials from China, Japan and India. But it might also be because in the last year we’ve seen debt crises ripple across Europe, and . Says Robert Johnson: “You’re looking at a situation in which governments can’t even promise to take care of large complex financial institutions, because they span 120 countries.”
What the conference does not have is the power to put these ideas into action. What could happen is for useful ideas to rub off on policymakers. At least that’s the hope of the organizers of the gathering.
Check back on this blog for updates, and follow up-to-the-minute updates on Twitter.