The last time the world experienced an economic catastrophe on the present scale, governments in Latin America and elsewhere drew the conclusion that reliance on fickle overseas markets was a dangerous thing. World War II only served to reinforce this conclusion.
Similar lessons are being drawn today, with one crucial difference. Back then, the decision was made to artificially decouple national economies from the international economy by developing protected industries that would service the home market. Now, the focus is on lessening export dependence by boosting local demand, which will involve temporary stimulus measures in the short run, but more structural measures in the longer term, for example promoting “social safety nets to give Asian consumers, especially the poor, the confidence to spend”. Moving towards higher wages, a more equal income distribution, and lower savings rates in countries like China, so that more of what is produced there is consumed there, would seem to be among the more benign adjustment scenarios available to the world economy today.