The G20 Summit has come and gone, and if today’s coverage in the Australian press is any indication, the most important of the tea leaves to be read is whether George W. Bush snubbed Kevin Rudd over the “Kirribilli leak”. Yep, a non-story that has burbled along for weeks, now diverted into intra-press gallery trading of accusations and a tedious talking point for the opposition – that’s the most important aspect of the events in Washington according to our “quality” media. As far as I can work out, if Bush is indeed upset that his ignorance of the function and nature of the G20 was revealed to the world, that just confirms what a lot of folks have always known about W – that’s he’s at best unengaged, at worst ignorant. But I suppose our fearless journos aren’t allowed to draw that conclusion lest a global diplomatic crisis add to our woes from the global financial crisis!
But, anyway, the lame duck President made his ritual obeisance to the virtues of American leadership and the glories of the free market. One imagines there’s some personal and political imperative there, but the reality of his governance is better disclosed in the fate of the TARP funds which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was given by Congress – it appears that crony capitalism and socialism for the rich is the name of the game according to American blogs such as naked capitalism, Obsidian Wings, firedoglake and naked capitalism again.
But Bush will soon be fading into history, and Barack Obama sensibly declined to act at the summit without executive authority, so what emerged from the G20 is more in the nature of a directions statement for the way forward, as The Big Picture foresaw:
Hopefully, a long term agenda for regulatory cooperation and communication can be set with the next meeting’s agenda decided upon. Far better to talk then not, but no real decisions will come out of this meeting. There will be gnashing of teeth and venting of rage at the mess that excess securitization has created, and the international regulation of and accounting for such derivatives will probably be a focus.
Planet Money looks at what transpired, and links to the text of the communique here. SocProf is right, in my judgement, that we’re seeing the eclipse of the Washington consensus, but the shape of what will replace it is still a work in progress, and some yardsticks to measure the work of the G20 have been provided by the Guardian. Bretton Woods itself was the culmination of some years of intellectual work and economic diplomacy, and if there is to emerge something we might call Bretton Woods II, it isn’t a bad thing that the interregnum in the US presidency implies that decisions won’t be made on the run.
In forming a judgement on what does emerge, I think we as global citizens could do worse than to keep in mind the choice posed by one of FDR’s brains trust in 1932, Adolf Berle:
Between a political organization of society and an economic organization of society, which will be the dominant form?