The Case for Capital Controls
Political Economy Research Institute | June 22, 2000PERI Published Study, by James Crotty
A central lesson drawn from the experience of the decades between the World Wars was that the economic and political fate of the world could not be safely entrusted to unregulated, free market national and global economic systems. History warned that this was a path to economic instability, global depression and political chaos. In the aftermath of World War II, national economies, even those in which markets played a powerful role, would be placed under the ultimate control of governments, while international economic relations would be consciously managed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Trade was expected to rise in importance, but it was thought at the time that the degree of global financial integration would remain modest, with cross border money flows under tight government control. The global prosperity that characterized the quarter century following the war -- the “Golden Age” of modern capitalism -- reinforced belief in the wisdom of social regulation of economic affairs.
The economic instability that erupted in the 1970s has led us back to the future. The troubles of that decade created a powerful movement, led by business and financial interests, to roll back the economic regulatory power of the state, replacing conscious societal control with the “invisible hand” of unregulated markets -- just as in the prewar period. Though governments still play a large role in most economies, they have ceded an enormous proportion of their economic power to global markets. The economic theory used to guide and justify this transformation is known as Neoliberalism. Neoliberal enthusiasts promised that this new laissez-faire era would dramatically improve economic performance in both developed and developing countries. Unfortunately, these promises have not been kept. In the Neoliberal era, global growth has slowed, unemployment has risen, financial crises are common, and inequality has increased almost everywhere. The recent Asian crisis is just the latest signal that the basic structures of the new global marketplace are dangerous to the economic interests of the majority of the world’s people.
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