April 12, 2011
Inside George Soros’s “Monstrous Monkey House”
Posted by John Cassidy
The New Yorker
Snow-capped peaks; nightcaps with Larry Summers; discussions of complexity theory over breakfast; Tennyson quotations from Gordon Brown at lunch. No it’s not Davos—it’s Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where over the weekend the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), which George Soros set up in the wake of the financial crisis, held its second annual conference. Last year’s inaugural get-together was held at King’s College, Cambridge, the home of Keynes. This year’s location also had a strong link to J.M.K. It was the grand old Mount Washington Hotel, which in the summer of 1944 played host to a famous international conference about the post-war monetary system.
Soros launched INET in 2009 with the intention of fostering fresh ways of thinking to replace an economic orthodoxy that manifestly had failed. Two years on, it’s not clear how far he’s succeeding in that enterprise, but Rob Johnson, a former Capitol Hill staffer and employee of Soros Fund Management, who heads up INET, has certainly put its annual meeting on the map. This year’s conference attracted more than two hundred economists, policy makers, and journalists from around the world. The subjects covered ranged from “Too Big to Fail” to the European debt crisis to “New New Trade Theory.”...
Before closing, Summers took a well-aimed shot at policymakers across the Atlantic. Wolf asked him whether the embrace of austerity policies in Europe, and particularly in Britain, wasn’t “basically nuts.” Summers replied: “I’m too soon out of government to use a word like nuts. But I find the idea of expansionary fiscal contraction, in the context of the world in which we live, to be every bit as oxymoronic as it sounds. And I think the consequences are likely to be severe for the countries involved.”...