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This G-20 summit needs the cool breezes of the real Bretton Woods

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(Read caption) The Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods, NH, site of the 1944 conference that set a new financial order.

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This Saturday, leaders from 20 of the wealthiest nations will gather in Toronto’s convention center and try to rewrite the rules of the global financial system. The venue for this G-20 summit, however, is a far cry from the scene of the first such meeting that tried to manage the world’s economy.

I happened to visit the Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire a few days ago after a hike in the White Mountains and was quickly reminded of the hotel’s historic significance. It was here, 66 years ago this July, that leaders from 44 nations agreed to create new financial institutions and set up an economic “system” – known for the local area called Bretton Woods – that helped promote decades of prosperity after World War II and the Depression.

The giant granite-and-stucco hotel with more than 200 rooms sits like a white cruise ship on the lower reaches of the tallest mountain in the Northeast. It was built in 1902 with 250 Italian craftsmen and still retains the grandeur of an era in which great men thought they could understand and control free markets like they could the game of golf. They no doubt sat, as I did with my teenage daughter, in the rocking chairs on the hotel’s wide porches, drawing lofty inspiration from the view of Mount Washington, whose 6,288-foot peak has winter winds that can howl at 200 miles per hour.

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