2017 Globie: “Grave New World”

by Joseph Joyce

2017 Globie: “Grave New World”

Once a year I choose a book that deals with an aspect of globalization in an interesting and illuminating way, and bestow on it the “prize” of the Globalization Book of the Year (known as the “Globie”). The prize is strictly honorific—no check is attached! But I enjoy drawing attention to an author who has an insight on the process of globalization.  Previous winners are listed below.

This year’s Globie goes to Stephen D. King for Grave New World: The End of Globalization, The Return of History. King is senior economic adviser at HSBC Holdings, where he was chief economist from 1998 to 2015. He is the author of Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity, which won the Globie in 2010, and therefore is the first two-time winner.

In the new book King addresses the current status of globalization, and how it may evolve in the future. In the book he makes six claims:

  • Globalization is not irreversible;
  • Technology can both enable globalization and destroy it;
  • Economic development that reduces inequality between states but reinforces domestic inequality creates a tension between a desire for gains in global living standards and social stability at home;
  • Migration in the 21st century will affect domestic stability;
  • The international institutions that have helped govern globalization have lost their credibility;
  • There is more than one version of globalization.

King is particularly perceptive in pointing out alternative viewpoints to those usually espoused in Western media. In Chapter 7, for example, he gives six different perspectives on how globalization has affected economic welfare. He begins with the Western version, and follows it with the Chinese, Ottoman, Russian, Persian and African versions. Each region sees history filtered through its own experiences and comes to very different conclusions on the benefits and costs of globalization.

Differences over globalization also exist within Western nations, as recent elections have shown. King points out that supporters of Donald Trump in the U.S. were concerned about immigration and terrorism, while Hilary Clinton’s supporters were worried about inequality. Nor are these concerns confined to the U.S., as the Brexit vote revealed. Part of these divisions are responses to the hardships and dislocations caused by the global financial crisis. But whatever the source, this upheaval hastens a retreat by Western countries from global engagement.

While the Western economies are withdrawing from international commitments, others are actively pursuing their own global agendas. China’s Silk Road initiative, for example, extends its trade ties with central Asia and Europe. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank bolsters China’s neighbors’ capacity to engage in more transactions. At some point India will undoubtedly respond with its version of an Asian initiative.

King readily admits that his view of the future is “unsettling.” Our faith in technology and markets has not led to the widespread adoption of Western values or shared prosperity. The challenge is to formulate international mechanisms that mitigate market failures, including inequality. A vision based on every nation following its own interests is not likely to achieve that goal.

Previous Globie Winners

2014    Martin Wolf : The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned–and Have Still to Learn–from the Financial Crisis

2015    Benjamin J. Cohen: Currency Power: Understanding Monetary Rivalry

2016    Branko Milanovic: Global Inequality