So, it might be over before it begins. Given the divergence of opinion from the members as different as Argentina and the United States, it's hard to be optimistic for a meaningful outcome for this one-day meeting. But "make or break" is what is at stake, according to George Soros, who fears a depression if the world's leaders do not get their act together.
My concern with what I've read about thus far - TARP, TALF, CDS, bailouts, billions, trillions - is that it's all too theoretical, hypothetical, and hifalutin for any normal person to get a grasp. Let's get down to earth: this problem started with houses, so perhaps houses might be a way to start solving the problem.
Can I interest you in a $20,000 house? That's what the good people at "Rural Studio," an Auburn University program in Hale County Alabama, have been up to for years. Architectural students, using a combination of new and used materials, have been designing and building sustainable housing and garnering international attention. I learned of their work at an exhibit put on by the EU's Economic and Social Committee here in Brussels.
Think this is a joke? Not TIME Magazine, which reported last month that "despite the crash in prices, affordable housing is still lacking," and explained how this came to pass:
Meanwhile, affordable home construction became passé. What developer wanted to build humdrum houses for teachers and police officers when he could make a killing with waterfront condominiums that promised the glamorous lifestyle of murder suspects on CSI: Miami?
TIME was writing about Florida, but the problem is widespread. "Some Florida towns have even enacted minimum square-footage requirements for single-family homes and have all but zoned out affordable rental units." NIMBY.
In Britain, the housing crisis includes one million empty homes, while almost twice that number - 1.8 million - families await housing.
TARP and TALF might be very 21st century, but what I fear is missing are a few 20th century acronyms: CCC, WPA, NRA, TVA. Franklin Roosevelt had no blueprint for digging the United States out of the Great Depression. But his programs, which involved workers digging and hammering their way out of hopelessness, created a tangible sense of participation in a great national effort. At least the Obama Administration took the "R" in Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration and turned it into a useful informational tool.
So we have to find a way to dig ourselves out of the blame game that appears to be the Washington approach. And let's hope that those 20 heads of state and government in London this Thursday won't play that same game. Hey, anyone can do that, blame the other guys. They were elected to lead (at least those of the G-20 from democracies), and they need to show their stuff. Poor sherpas.