Economist has a survey of global finance.
Trade in goods and services is simple: what governments need to do, through the World Trade Organisation, through this or that regional trade agreement, or best of all unilaterally, is abolish their barriers. When it comes to finance, there is no such straightforward advice. Let capital flow where it may is bad policy. Finance must be intelligently regulated, at home as well as internationally, in ways that ordinary commerce does not require. When capital flows are liberalised, it needs to be done cautiously and within prudent limits. To that extent, global finance must indeed be impeded.
Governments and their advisers are a long way from understanding how this should ideally be done, let alone from putting any such understanding into practice. There is no detailed consensus on the right approach to international financial regulation, any more than there is on the domestic sort: there is plenty of activity, but for the most part it is co-operation without conviction.
The risks of international finance need to be frankly acknowledged, and then reduced so far as possible. That means weighing the costs and benefits of different kinds of capital mobility, and setting policies accordingly. It means abandoning certain orthodoxies of international economic policy. The danger cannot be eliminated altogether, but the remaining risk is worth taking because the potential gains from international capital flows are large, especially for the world’s poor countries.
To ignore that potential would be an even greater mistake than to liberalise recklessly. The global capital market is a treacherous aid to economic growth, but in the end, above all for the poor, an indispensable one.