By Amitabh Pal on May 27, 2011

Even with all the attention on the International Monetary Fund in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, there’s been very little focus on the institution itself. The world needs a drastic overhaul of the organization, not just a change in the leadership.

The root problem here is that the IMF does the bidding of Wall Street, which through the U.S. treasury, controls the policies that the fund dictates to the planet.

The IMF has changed its mandate “from serving global economic interests to serving the interests of global finance,” Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in his 2002 book “Globalization and Its Discontents.” “Capital market liberalization may not have contributed to global economic stability, but it did open up vast new markets for Wall Street.”

This mission to act at the behest of Wall Street has made the IMF foist disastrous policies on innumerable countries, contributing to the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and the current global Great Recession. Nations that have emerged relatively unscathed have done so by going their own route.

“The countries that have done best [in recent years, such as China and India] are the ones that never bought into the IMF-Washington Consensus policies,” Stiglitz told me in a 2009 interview.

Although it has modified its policy prescriptions at the margins, the IMF’s core recommendations remain the same.

“The IMF is still playing its traditional role of applying the medieval economic medicine of ‘bleeding the patient,’ ” writes Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The impact of such therapy has been severely negative, especially in Europe, where the IMF has reasserted control in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The result: “In Latvia, the IMF presided over an Argentine-style recession that set a world historical record for the worst two-year loss of output (about 25 percent)—a complete disaster,” Weisbrot points out.

But instead of debating the changes that need to be made at the IMF, the media has instead been bombarding us with constant coverage of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest or breathless speculation about his replacement. A typical example is a recent NPR story gushing about a possible contender, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, due to “her ease with American culture.”

To their credit, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have gotten together and have announced that they will not this time consent to the traditional, colonial “prerogative” of a European leading the IMF. The countries’ representatives at the IMF have rightly pointed out in a joint statement that since the global recession has been a creation of the West, this has “underscored the urgency of reforming international financial institutions so as to reflect the growing role of developing countries in the world economy.”

But if we want to make certain that the world doesn’t further suffer as a result of bad economic advice, we have to go much further than a change at the top. The IMF as an entity needs to be radically transformed.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Obama’s Actions Belie His Middle East Speech."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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