International Monetary Fund and World Bank - Conclusion

The future of both Bretton Woods institutions remains uncertain. Both the IMF and World Bank escaped the efforts of the Republican U.S. Congress in the mid-1990s to sharply curtail and even eliminate both organizations. These agencies have been less successful in answering the charges from the left, as the IMF retains its demand for "structural adjustments" and the World Bank still favors funding for large, project-driven funding. While both the IMF and the World Bank have instituted some reforms, they have been unable to appease the concerns of outraged environmentalists, labor unionists, and nationalists and advocates of indigenous peoples in the developing world.

Still, as this essay has suggested, these two organizations are really the misguided target for the legitimate concerns people of all ideological stripes have had about the rapid pace of globalization in the past half century. It is likely this globalization would have occurred whether or not there had been a Bretton Woods conference, and it is all but certain it will continue in the future regardless of the policies pursued by the IMF and World Bank. While it is true that they have often been too driven by U.S. foreign policy concerns, in the end the influence of both institutions has been widely overstated. And despite their mistakes during the past half century, they have rarely been given credit for many of the little things they do well. For example, both institutions perform economic surveillance over most of the world's economy, a valuable task that no other international or private organization could perform with such skill. Both agencies also serve as a store of expert knowledge and wisdom for countries throughout the world that lack trained specialists. While neither the IMF nor the World Bank has met the lofty goals of their founders or wielded the nefarious influence charged by their critics, they have and should continue to play a small but important role in promoting prosperity and economic stability worldwide.

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