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When Christine Lagarde arrived in Davos in 2008 as French finance minister, the battle was just beginning against a financial crisis that would bring the world economy to its knees.

Six years later, as head of the International Monetary Fund, she warned the World Economic Forum at the Swiss mountain resort that the fight isn’t over, just before a currency crisis 7,000 miles away in Argentina reinforced her view. She urged policy makers to remain alert for asset bubbles and prevent a looming threat to prosperity: deflation.

Lagarde’s concern springs from her experience as an eyewitness to the spread of the U.S....

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