Did the G20 succeed in averting catastrophe…?

The New Statesman: 20th November 2008

“The joint statement issued by the 20 world leaders borders on the delusional. The phrase “We must… ensure… that a global crisis, such as this one, does not happen again” implies that they are avoiding the next war when they are still losing this one”.

The New Statesman asked key economists and politicians including myself, Vince Cable, Will Hutton and others to comment on the outcome of the Washington G20 meeting. Read the full piece here, or the rest of my comment below.

Over the past decade, the Group of Eight leaders turned their exclusive annual meetings into jamborees. Rock concerts, protesters and celebrities added populist glitz. However, the real purpose of the meetings – international co-operation and co-ordination – was ducked. At last year’s G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, George W Bush and Gordon Brown vetoed Angela Merkel’s agenda item for co-operation over tighter international regulation and financial oversight of capital markets. That task, they argued then, could safely be delegated to “the invisible hand”. Now that the fantastic, self-regulating machinery of free markets has proved grossly malfunctional, it is good to hear talk of enhanced co-operation and regulation.

But, in places, the joint statement issued by the 20 world leaders borders on the delusional. The phrase “We must . . . ensure . . . that a global crisis, such as this one, does not happen again” implies that they are avoiding the next war when they are still losing this one.

Even more questionable is the call for continued “economic growth”. In a world of finite resources on a planet with limited capacity to absorb toxic emissions, and with bushfires encircling Los Angeles, we would have hoped that world leaders had some awareness of the threat of climate change and of the limits to economic growth. But no. The gravest threat to global security – our rapacious attitude to the earth’s resources – is once again whipped up with talk of “market principles, open trade and economic growth”.

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1 comment to Did the G20 succeed in averting catastrophe…?

  • Ken MacIntyre

    Ann’s point about the impossibility of continuing economic growth is well made and scientists have been saying this for years. See M

    King Hubbert’s 1976 paper to the World Wildlife Fund – sorry I forget the link but a search should find it.

    However, one pernicious effect

    of neoliberal ideology (also known as ‘postmodernism’) has been to deny one of the great achievements of the Enlightenment, that there is any

    objective reality or knowledge, a handy device with which to dismiss scientific findings.

    Instead, the great majority of economists,

    including academics, present a mixture of propaganda and mumbo jumbo disguised as ‘expert’ opinions. Exposing these apologists and the economic

    oligarchy they serve is a most important and urgent task.

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