Workers and the World Economy



Ethan B. Kapstein | Foreign Affairs

The global economy is leaving millions of disaffected workers in its train. Inequality, unemployment, and endemic poverty have become its handmaidens. Rapid technological change and heightening international competition are fraying the job markets of the major industrialized countries. At the same time systemic pressures are curtailing every government’s ability to respond with new spending. Just when working people most need the nation-state as a buffer from the world economy, it is abandoning them.

This is not how things were supposed to work. The failure of today’s advanced global capitalism to keep spreading the wealth poses a challenge not just to policymakers but to modern economic “science” as well. For generations, students were taught that increasing trade and investment, coupled with technological change, would drive national productivity and create wealth. Yet over the past decade, despite a continuing boom in international trade and finance, productivity has faltered, and inequality. 

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