All talk of consensus is becoming impractical
Published: May 7 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 7 2008 03:00
From Dr Hugh Goodacre.
Sir, Lawrence Summers ("A strategy to promote healthy globalisation", May 5) blames the free-trade dogmatism of the Washington consensus for encouraging countries to embark on a "race to the bottom" as regards taxing corporations and protecting labour standards. He argues, instead, for a world where progressive taxation and labour regulation are implemented globally in such a way as to earn support for globalisation from developing countries and wage-earners in the developed world alike. However, he omits to mention the most immediately topical issues in both cases.
For a start, this utopian ‘Post Washington Consensus’ has for a number of years been losing moral standing among developing countries, who are understandably losing patience with the poor record of the developed world in implementing its principles, as enshrined, most notably, in the Doha agreement. Countries which have suffered so severely from arguments emanating from Washington – whether old-style or ‘Post’ – are surely now more likely to turn elsewhere for both economic and political inspiration, to a ‘Beijing Consensus’, for example.
Equivalently, the current slump in support for the policies of that enthusiastic advocate of the ‘Post’ perspective, Gordon Brown, indicates that Summers may, as regards the developed world, be flogging another dead horse. In a global economy emerging from a period of relatively plain sailing and entering once more the hazardous open seas, the interests of wage-earners and corporations are surely likely come into more unrestrained contradiction economically. The outcome on the political front is equivalently likely to be a harsher demarcation between left and right, making all talk of ‘consensuses’ of any form, all the more utopian and impractical.
Dr. Hugh Goodacre
Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster
Teaching Fellow, University College London