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15 Law & Bus. Rev. Am. 7 (2009)
A Short History of the Washington Consensus

handle is hein.journals/lbramrca15 and id is 9 raw text is: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
John Williamson*
HE term Washington Consensus was coined in 1989. The first
written usage was in my background paper for a conference that
the Institute for International Economics convened in order to ex-
amine the extent to which the old ideas of development economics that
had governed Latin American economic policy since the 1950s were be-
ing swept aside by the set of ideas that had long been accepted as appro-
priate within the OECD. In order to try and ensure that the background
papers for that conference dealt with a common set of issues, I made a list
of ten policies that I thought more or less everyone in Washington would
agree were needed more or less everywhere in Latin America, and la-
beled this the Washington Consensus. Little did it occur to me that
fifteen years later I would be asked to write about the history of a term
that had become the center of fierce ideological controversy.
The first section of this paper describes what I recollect about the back-
ground to my background paper for the 1989 conference. The second
section retraces much more familiar ground, summarizing the ten points
that I included in the Washington Consensus. This is followed by an ac-
count of the reception given to the term, and the analysis. The next sec-
tion tries to account for the fact that the term became used in such
different ways in different quarters and thus to be at the center of ideo-
logical controversies. The last substantive section is forward-looking and
describes what I believe needs to be added to my original list in order to
formulate a policy agenda for Latin America today.
The story started in the Spring of 1989 when I was testifying before a
Congressional committee in favor of the Brady Plan. I argued that it
* Senior Fellow, Institute for International Economics
1. Paper commissioned by Fundaci6n CIDOB for a conference From the Washing-
ton Consensus towards a new Global Governance, Barcelona, September 24-25,
2004. The paper is reprinted with the permission of the Peter G. Peterson Institute
for International Economics which owns the copyright rights of all of its fellows.
The institute is a private, nonpartisan, institution devoted to the study of economic
policy and is one of the only economic think tanks considered to be nonpartisan
by the press and neutral by the U.S. Congress.

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