Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University, is the author most recently of “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.” He writes in the Washington Post:
Future historians, I suspect, will look back on Saturday’s anticlimactic G-20 gathering in Washington less as Bretton Woods 2.0 and more as a rerun of the London Economic Conference of 1933. Back then, representatives of 66 nations completely failed to agree on a concerted international response to the Great Depression. The fault lay mainly with the newly elected U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who vetoed European proposals for currency stabilization.
This time around, it wasn’t the newly elected Democrat but the outgoing Republican who wielded the veto. Even before his counterparts reached Washington, President Bush made it clear that recent events had done nothing to diminish his faith in free markets and minimalist regulation. Over the weekend, it was the United States that resisted European calls for a new international regulatory body, opposed significant redefinition of the International Monetary Fund’s role and showed no interest in the idea of a global stimulus package.