The philosophy of unbridled financial capitalism, which set the tone for years, seems to have reached the end of its line. Governments will play a more active role in the economy for many years to come, as they clean up the ailing financial sector, bolster the economy and develop a new order in the financial and credit markets.
Much will depend on how the industrialized nations control this massive process. Tensions are growing among the major economic blocs. Will governments take steps to achieve a modicum of international cooperation, or will they succumb to the temptation to pursue nothing but national interests?
In the end, it is clear that such questions will not be decided at summit conferences stage-managed to appear in the most favorable light possible on television, but in day-to-day government work: In assembling the next budget, defining a new export subsidy or deciding whether to save a domestic carmaker or allow it to go under.
No one will play as decisive a role in this process as the new American president. The United States has lost some of its importance, but it still plays a leadership role. If Obama unilaterally places US interests ahead of international cooperation, this will also shape the policies of other industrialized nations.
The new US president would be well advised not to base his decisions on his political role model, Franklin D. Roosevelt. He blamed his political decisions in 1933, which went on to have serious consequences, on the mood among the electorate at home. International agreements on world trade are important, he said at the time, "but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment."