Dr. Don E. Beck and I will be keynote speakers at the 75th Anniversary of the Bretton Woods Financial Conference this July which is taking place at the same center that held the original conference that changed the world. This invitation came about as the organizers of the conference, under the leadership of the late Bernard Lietaer, the co-designer of the Euro, studied my book MEMEnomics. The group then decided to gain a deeper understanding of Spiral Dynamics¬†by studying Dr. Beck‚Äôs original book on the theory.¬† I was fortunate enough to meet Bernard in Boulder, CO in the mid 2000’s when he attended an event led by Dr. Beck. Then as fate would have it, we met again in 2013 in New York as we shared the same media publicist that was promoting our respective books.
The theme of the upcoming conference is Economics at the intersection of Humanity, Technology, Ecology, Governance and Markets. Dr. Beck and I will be the opening speakers on the second full day of this In-conversation-with¬†conference format. The organizers would like our opening (in their words) to be a showcase of Spiral Dynamic to prime participants to start thinking differently about economic systems.
There will be many prominent attendees and speakers¬† and many organizations represented that include: The IMF, New America, Poverty Action Lab, Council on Foreign Relations, The Buckminster Fuller Institute, National Geographic, CARE, The Nature Conservancy, MIT Innovation Lab, The Financial Times, The Schumacher Center, & The Institute for New Economic Thinking.
The Evolution of Bretton Woods
The original 1944 conference was organized by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who invited delegates and heads of states from 44 different countries to create a post WWII economic and financial blueprint. John Maynard Keynes, the most prominent economists at the time was the master architect behind the conference that gave the world the current global financial and economic order. This was the event that gave birth to so many institutions born out of a new global paradigm on peaceful trade and development. It made the US the economic superpower it is today. It gave the world the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank, and made the US Dollar the de facto reserve currency for the world. It also gave us a preview of how a resilient Blue system (regulatory structure that understands economics) in government can direct economic policies and nudge a culture towards systemic prosperity by providing smart regulation that anticipates the Orange system‚Äôs (free market capitalism) every move and keeps its exploitation in check.
These values, which represent the Patriotic Prosperity Cycle¬†in my book, were with us until the 1970‚Äôs when runaway inflation and¬† budget deficits made it impossible to keep the dollar pegged to the gold standard. That‚Äôs when President Nixon allowed the US currency to float and become a fiat currency backed only by the word of our government. The cycle entered the decline phase thereafter as Germany left the Bretton Woods Agreement, and the world was hit by the first Arab oil embargo. Its final entropy phase came during the Carter years when any and all measures of Keynesian economics failed to tame double-digit ¬†inflation and runaway interest rates that were choking any meaningful economic growth.
As Keynesian economics waned in the US, it was replaced, with much fanfare by Monetarism, with Milton Friedman as its ideological father. This is the Orange economic phase I call the Only Money Matters Cycle in my work.¬†Beginning¬†with¬†the Reagan presidency, the institutions created by Bretton Woods shifted from a trade, reconstruction, development and humanitarian mission, to mostly a banking function motivated by profit. Today these same institutions are the main reason why less developed countries remain in a perpetual downward spiral of debt that can never be repaid. (Click here to read my 2009 published piece ¬†about the value systems structures that made this possible).
The push to develop the entire world into this peaceful commerce paradigm went into high gear under the Monetarist ideology and became instrumental in continuing the goal of ending wars against each other. But, as we came together to end wars through the virtues of free markets, and an insatiable appetite for consumption, we collectively and inadvertently waged a slow but deadly war against Mother Nature‚Äôs key ecosystems.
This will be the monumental challenge this conference needs to address. It seems that from the diverse list of attendees, speakers and the institutions ¬†represented, this might just be the right place to start work on a new blueprint that reframes human activity as part of the planetary ecosystem. While the conference might not hold the same CAPI* the original conference did 75 years ago, ¬†the hope is that it can inform leaders on the type of institutions we need to design to effectively address the existential threats we as a humanity have collectively created for ourselves and the planet.
Although the event itself is not open to the public, here‚Äôs the link to its website for more information. https://www.brettonwoods75.org/
*CAPI stands for Coalescence of Authority, Power and Influence. It’s is an advanced Spiral Dynamics concept adopted from the Adizes Institute. It’s presence as a representation of systemic stakeholders, is an essential ingredient in the design of Large-Scale transformational systems. ¬†