It's springtime again in Washington, D.C., when flowers bloom, birds chirp, and thousands of wonks from all over the world descend on the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Planet Money included. Since World War II, the IMF and World Bank have served as guardians of global capitalism. The IMF, in particular, has a long history of bailing out countries in financial crises and using its power to push a free-market agenda. That's why we were surprised to hear IMF officials suggest capitalism is running amok
We heard it at the wonkiest part of this wonkfest, the IMF's "analytical corner." Throughout the week, IMF economists presented research on a small stage with a giant projector screen and big block letters that spelled "IMF" behind them. It looked sort of like a TED Talk, but the speakers weren't wearing those cheesy Backstreet Boy headset microphones.
Wenjie Chen, an economist in the IMF's Research Department, presented the findings of an impressive study that can be found in Chapter 2 of the IMF's World Economic Outlook. Chen gave us the sense that something fundamental in the economy has changed and that capitalism may be going haywire. The reason: companies are getting too powerful.