Capitalism pp 357-375 | Cite as

The Washington Consensus



The ideas behind the “Washington Consensus” originated in the late 1970s at about the time that many developing countries began to ask policymakers in Washington for help in dealing with the effects of prolonged import substitution strategies: decreasing exports, crippling debt, runaway inflation, and bloated public sectors. By the mid-1980s, the policy prescriptions jelled, and in 1990 John Williamson identified a set of ten policies that “Washington” regarded as desirable. He coined the term “Washington Consensus” in a paper featured in a book of collected works on the economic situation of Latin America called Latin American Adjustment. By “Washington,” Williamson was referring to “the political Washington of Congress and senior members of the administration and the technocratic Washington of the international financial institutions, the economic agencies of the US government, the Federal Reserve Board, and the think tanks.” Thus, for Williamson, the term Washington Consensus was first and foremost a descriptive term. Like it or not, there was an implicit consensus in official Washington, and he had identified it and given it a name.


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  1. Williamson, John. “What Washington Means by Policy Reform.” In Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened? edited by John Williamson. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1990.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bruce R. Scott 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Business SchoolBostonUSA

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