Former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers recently conceded: “In general, economic thinking has privileged efficiency over resilience, and it has been insufficiently concerned with the big downsides of efficiency.” Policy across the globe is therefore moving in a more overtly nationalistic direction to rectify this shortcoming.
Covid-19 has accelerated a process that was well under way before it, spreading beyond US-China-EU trade negotiations and into the world’s 50 largest economies. As much as many defenders of the old order lament this trend, it is as significant a shift as the dawn of the World Trade Organization (WTO) global trade era.
Economists, politicians, and leading pundits are often tempted to see new economic patterns through the prisms of the past; we are therefore likely to hear that we’re back in an era of 19th-century mercantilism, or 1970s-style stagflation. But that misses the moment – the motives are different, and so are the outcomes.
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