David Rieff Reflects on the G-20 Meeting of 2009

Question: What’s the problem with meetings like the G-20?

Rieff:    The problem with the G20 is that people… that different powerful countries have genuinely different interests.  And whereas, say, in the 19… 15 years ago, it was really up to the United States to determine what happened.  There’s really no reason for the German government or the Brazilian government or the Chinese government to simply accept what the Americans want, unless it’s in their interest as well.  Look, I think every… Everybody’s terrified.  And there’s no doubt that… I mean, it’s already been leaked you don’t have to be brilliant. You know, you have to be [President] to understand that there will be more this package of trying to refloat the economy and underwrite these failing banks, that the G20 will do more of that, whether it’ll work or not.  I’m not confident to say.  But we’ve come to the end of a period… We haven’t come to the end of capitalism.  Those who hope for the end of that, I think, are gravely mistaken.  But we’ve come to the end of that Reagan facture.  The thing that began with the so-called Reagan facture evolution, a deregulated world, the world in which the private sector was viewed as being more intelligent and having pride of place in government was thought of as being comparatively… of diminishing importance, I should say, except in the security field.  That’s over.  We’re going back to a different kind of capitalism.  A capitalism in which the state will play a very important role.  This is an inflection point.  This is a new chapter in the history of capitalism.  It’ll involve… If we’re lucky, it’ll involve a certain reform of capitalist institutions rather the way Roosevelt and the United States were the popular front in France, represented or reform of capitalism in the 1930s.  I don’t know what form it’ll take.  I’m not… It’s above my pay grade.  But I… I don’t think there’s any doubt that the system of light regulation of government sort of seeding the economic field to the private sector.  That’s over.   

The author speculates on the future of American-style capitalism.

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