Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shape of Things to Come?

John Maynard Keynes had the answer to the crisis we’re now facing; but it was blocked and then forgotten. Poor old Lord Keynes. The world’s press has spent the past week blackening his name. Not intentionally: most of the dunderheads reporting the G20 summit which took place over the weekend really do believe that he proposed and founded the International Monetary Fund. It’s one of those stories that passes unchecked from one journalist to another.

The truth is more interesting. At the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, John Maynard Keynes put forward a much better idea. After it was thrown out, Geoffrey Crowther - then the editor of the Economist magazine - warned that “Lord Keynes was right … the world will bitterly regret the fact that his arguments were rejected.”(1) But the world does not regret it, for almost everyone - the Economist included - has forgotten what he proposed.

He proposed a global bank, which he called the International Clearing Union. The bank would issue its own currency - the bancor - which was exchangeable with national currencies at fixed rates of exchange. The bancor would become the unit of account between nations, which means it would be used to measure a country’s trade deficit or trade surplus.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 18th November 2008