Deregulation of financial markets: Even the IMF now admits financial market deregulation was a mistake. The U.S. should listen.

Commentaries on economics and technology.
May 5 2011 1:04 PM

Listen to the IMF, America

Even the International Monetary Fund now admits that total deregulation of financial markets was a mistake. The U.S. should take heed.

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As unequal as America was before the Great Recession, the crisis—and the way it has been managed—has led to even greater income inequality, making a recovery all the more difficult. America is setting itself up for its own version of a Japanese-style malaise.

But there are ways out of this dilemma: strengthening collective bargaining, restructuring mortgages, using carrots and sticks to get banks to resume lending, restructuring tax and spending policies to stimulate the economy now through long-term investments, and implementing social policies that ensure opportunity for all. As it is, with almost one-quarter of all income and 40 percent of U.S. wealth going to the top 1 percent of income earners, America is now less a "land of opportunity" than even "old" Europe.

For progressives, these abysmal facts are part of the standard litany of frustration and justified outrage. What is new is that the IMF has joined the chorus. As Strauss-Kahn concluded in his speech to the Brookings Institution shortly before the fund's recent meeting: "Ultimately, employment and equity are building blocks of economic stability and prosperity, of political stability and peace. This goes to the heart of the IMF's mandate. It must be placed at the heart of the policy agenda."

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Strauss-Kahn is proving himself a sagacious leader of the IMF. We can only hope that governments and financial markets heed his words.

This article comes from Project Syndicate.

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Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University.  The paperback version of his latest book, Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy,with a new afterword, was published in October.