Washington Consensus: Forced or Homegrown?

Left Behind (Edwards)I have argued elsewhere that the Washington institutions — the U.S. Treasury, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund — had little to do with the specifics of these reforms. It is true that to participate in the Brady debt forgiveness program the Latin American countries had to show some commitment to modernizing their economies. However, there was no detailed list of reforms that had to be implemented. Clearly, the actual policies were not imposed or forced upon the Latin American governments. The reform programs were largely homegrown and were Latin America’s own response to more than a decade of crisis; they were developed by a group of foreign-trained economists who have been labeled “technopols.” In fact, the Washington institutions were skeptical — and in some cases openly opposed — to some of the most daring reform proposals. To be sure, as time passed, and more and more countries adopted these policies, Washington began to support the effort.

— Sebastian Edwards, Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 64–65.

The story Edwards tells is that the failure of the Washington Consensus wasn’t a failure of “Neoliberalism,” but a failure of local governments to implement at truly “Neoliberal” agenda.

2 thoughts on “Washington Consensus: Forced or Homegrown?

  1. MPortillo

    What exactly is meant by “neoliberalism” as opposed to old school “liberalism” and whats commonly referred to today as “liberalism” (democrat)?

    1. JCatalan

      The way I understand it is as a catch all term for generally free-market oriented policies/reforms in emerging countries during the late 1980s and during the 1990s. It’s usually linked to the revival of monetarism and libertarianism, and Milton Friedman.


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