THE BOY WHO CRIED MARTIN WOLF….I’m enjoying Martin Wolf’s Why Globalization Works, and I recommend that all good Americans read the book. Most Democrats and Republicans will find much to agree or disagree with because Wolf’s policy preferences don’t map well to the American political scene: he’s an old-school British liberal internationalist. I’d say his views are somewhere between those of Daniel Drezner, America’s most honest conservative, and those of Brad DeLong, America’s greatest blogging economics professor.

Let me cherry-pick this part of the book:

Nineteenth-century nationalism coincided with a resurgence, in the last three decades of that century, of pre-modern imperialistic and protectionist ideas. The aim of countries became to create a protected sphere of their own. From the point of view of promoting prosperity, these shifts were an error. This is particularly true of the late nineteenth-century scramble for new empires in Africa. But, worse than that, the emergence of protectionism and imperialism changes the calculus of international relations: suddenly, being small and weak begins to look rather a bad choice, because one might be locked out of opportunities for peaceful exchange and prosperity. In a protectionist world, countries will try to become parts of trading blocs or create empires. Imperialism and protectionism are, for this reason, self-fulfilling prophecies–they create the dog-eat-dog world their proponents believe justifies them. It is for this reason that, in recreating the liberal world order, the Americans, led by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s long-serving secretary of state Cordell Hull, placed great weight on the principle of non-discrimination, alongside that of liberalization. This was an attempt to leave behind the world of hostile trading blocs. It is an understanding that the United States now seems to have lost.

So are we, as Brad Plumer wonders, heading towards a “mercantilist ‘bloc’ race?” What types of policies would be best in order to create a win for everyone rather than a destabilizing faceoff between rivals? Is China a mercantilist power? Is Lou Dobbs bad for America?


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