By Leo Panitch, Martijn Konings
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Extra info for American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance
Volcker was himself no more than a ‘pragmatic monetarist’ (having first worked in the New York Fed and the US Treasury under Kennedy and Nixon trying to patch up the holes in the Bretton Woods system). What the Volcker shock entailed in policy terms, as he admitted, was not ‘very fancy or very precise’ (1990: 5). For all the pseudoscientific econometrics that provided ideological cover for the operation, it simply involved limiting the growth in the money supply and allowing interest rates to rise to whatever level – and at whatever short-term economic cost – was necessary to break the back of inflation and the strength of labour.
To be sure, even the New York bankers were pragmatic enough to see that most countries – with the key exception of the US – would continue to require capital controls after the war. But they never relinquished their view that such controls should be only temporary. 6 So while the Bretton Woods Agreement recognized that states could operate capital controls, what was more significant was the US state’s own refusal to use such controls, and the expectation in both Washington and New York that other states would use them only for a transitional period of reconstruction.
5 The editors of Fortune,Time and Life magazines, in a joint statement in 1942, called for a ‘new American imperialism’ whose goal would be ‘to promote and foster private enterprise, by removing the barriers to its natural expansion’, through the creation of ‘an expansionist context in which tariffs, subsidies, monopolies, restrictive labour rule . . and all other barriers to further expansion can be removed’. This vision was strikingly similar to what would later be called neoliberalism, in which ‘universal free trade’ was seen as ‘the ultimate goal of a rational world’ (Fortune Magazine 1942: 59–63).
American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance by Leo Panitch, Martijn Konings