Paul Blustein has written about economic issues for more than thirty
years, first as a reporter at leading news organizations and later as
the author of several books about international economic institutions.
He is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance
Innovation, and is in the final stages of a book about the IMF’s role in
the euro crisis, which is scheduled for publication in late 2016. A
graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Oxford University, where he
was a Rhodes Scholar, he spent most of his career reporting for The
Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Most of the books published so far on the global financial crisis focus on events in the United States. Appropriate as that may be given the U.S. origins of the crisis, the international aspects have gone largely unaddressed. I intend to fill this gap by chronicling the crisis from an international perspective, using a journalistic narrative that will focus on key turning points and personalities. I will also produce three related research papers. Work on this project is well underway, but much remains to be done. The book will focus on several institutions that have long governed the world economy. Its main theme will be that, in a world of globalized capital, the efficacy of these institutions at fostering stability is sorely lacking. The institutions include the International Monetary Fund, the G-20 (which has effectively replaced the G-7), the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, and the Financial Stability Board (previously called the Financial Stability Forum). They are tasked with enormous responsibilities for coordinating post-crisis policies, but they suffer from serious weaknesses and failings, some of which were exposed by the crisis. The IMF, for example, proved utterly feckless in its efforts before the crisis to coordinate a reduction of global trade imbalances. The international regulators (the Basel Committee and the Financial Stability Forum) adopted policies that overlooked—and even exacerbated—key vulnerabilities. As the crisis intensified, the woefully unrepresentative G-7 was supplanted by the unwieldy G-20. The institutions’ failings and limitations are important, given the immense challenges they are now facing in promoting a sustained, balanced global recovery and preventing future crises. International regulators must promulgate new rules that are much more effective than before. A rebalanced global economy is also essential to minimize the dangers of another downturn; this is the responsibility of the G-20 and the IMF. Although the institutions have achieved some successes, and have been endowed with significant new resources, deep skepticism is warranted about their ability to fulfill their tasks, in view of their pre-crisis performances and difficulties in forging consensus among a broader group of countries. Detailed scrutiny of their operations, especially their shortcomings, would help inform the public debate on issues confronting international economic policymakers. That overarching goal will guide this project. My book will be both accessible to non-expert readers and revelatory for policy elites, based on my long experience as a journalist and author of three books that received high praise for their readability and illumination of complex international economic subjects. Although I have already conducted about 100 interviews with policymakers and former policymakers in Washington, I must conduct many more in cities around the globe. The three research papers, which will explore in depth several of the book’s topics, will be written before the book. This is an ambitious undertaking that will require substantial support, but I hope the Abe Fellowship will recognize its worthiness, especially in light of its close fit with the Fellowship’s research agenda on global economic issues.