Apenas acho que não se deveria chamar a expansão da economia mundial da segunda metade do século XIX (até 1914) de “primeira onda” da globalização. Para mim é a segunda, sendo a primeira a dos Decobrimentos, com Colombo, Vasco da Gama e Fernão de Magalhães como seus principais promotores. Claro, essa primeira onda seria logo interrompida pelos “exclusivos comerciais” criados pelos grandes impérios coloniais europeus, para só ressurgir como segunda onda após a navegação a vapor que se expande na segunda metade do século XIX. A terceira onda, por sua vez, só aparece, de fato, após a implosão do socialismo e a unificação dos mercados globais nos anos 1990: não creio que ela venha a ser interrompida agora pela pandemia, que representa apenas um pequeno choque de nacionalismo e introversão numa tendência geral de interdependência crescente.
Antiglobalizadores e antiglobalistas são espécies em extinção, reacionários irracionais condenados ao desaparecimento nas dobras da História. Bolsonaro— assim como Trump, Modi e outros desglobalizadores — é um personagem menor, e completamente medíocre, dessa grande história.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Foreign Affairs, Nova York – 6/05/2021
Globalization’s Coming Golden Age
Why Crisis Ends in Connection
The thought that trade and globalization might make a comeback in the 2020s, picking up renewed vigor after the pandemic, may seem far-fetched. After all, COVID-19 is fragmenting the world, destroying multilateralism, and disrupting complex cross-border supply chains. The virus looks like it is completing the work of the 2008 financial crisis: the Great Recession produced more trade protectionism, forced governments to question globalization, increased hostility to migration, and, for the first time in over four decades, ushered in a sustained period in which global trade grew more slowly than global production. Even then, however, there was no complete reversal or deglobalization; rather, there was an uncertain, sputtering “slobalization.” In contrast, today’s vaccine nationalism is rapidly driving China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States into open confrontation and sowing bitter conflict within the EU. It is all too easy to extrapolate and see a future of “nobalization”—globalization vanishing in a viral haze.
Over the past two centuries, the course of trade and globalization has been shaped by how governments and people have responded to such crises. Globalization comes in cycles: periods of increasing integration are followed by shocks, crises, and destructive backlashes. After the Great Depression, the world slid into autarky, nationalism, authoritarianism, zero-sum thinking, and, ultimately, war—a series of events often presented as a grim parable of the consequences of globalization’s reversal. Yet history shows that many crises produce more, rather than less, globalization. Challenges can generate new creative energy, better communication, and a greater willingness to learn from effective solutions adopted elsewhere. Governments often realize that their ability to competently deliver the services their populations demand requires answers found abroad.
Modern globalization, for instance, began as a response to social and financial catastrophes in the 1840s. The most recent wave of globalization followed scarring economic disruptions in the 1970s. In both cases, shocks laid the foundation for new international connections and solutions, and the volume of world trade surged dramatically. The truth is that historic ruptures often generate and accelerate new global links. COVID-19 is no exception. After the pandemic, globalization will come roaring back.
THE FIRST TIME AROUND
The 1840s were a disaster. Crops failed, people went hungry, disease spread, and financial markets collapsed. The best-known catastrophe was the Irish potato famine, which began in 1845 and led to the deaths of nearly one million people, mostly from diseases caused by malnutrition. The same weather that made potatoes vulnerable to fungal rot also led to widespread crop failures and famine across Europe. In The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels articulated how global integration was driving the world toward social and political upheaval. “The development of Modern Industry,” they argued, “cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products.”
Europe was a tinderbox. In 1848, it ignited in an inferno of nationalist revolution, with populations rising up in France, Italy, and central Europe. But the economic shock of the 1840s did not reverse the course of global integration. Instead, trade expanded, governments reduced tariff barriers, capital mobility surged, and people moved across continents. Migration was not only a response to social and political immiseration; it also reflected the promise of new prosperity.
Historians now think of the second half of the nineteenth century as the first age of globalization. Food shortages highlighted the need for broad and diversified supply chains, and leaders realized that a modern state needed reliable access to supplies from beyond its borders. In the United Kingdom, the British government initially responded to the Irish famine by importing corn from outside Europe. At the time, The Economist argued that “except Russia, Egypt, and the United States, there are no countries in the world able to spare any quantity of grain worthy of mention.”
Historic ruptures often generate and accelerate new global links.
Imports, however, failed catastrophically. This was in part because the new food was unfamiliar, but above all, it was because London couldn’t work out how to pay for the goods. Trade deficits generated currency shortages, which pushed up interest rates in the United Kingdom and France. This intensified a manufacturing crisis—itself the result of a decline in purchasing power caused by surging food prices. Although the best solution was to sell more goods abroad, that would have required governments to lower trade barriers and open up their markets.
These shortages generated popular demands for more competent governments. Although it was only in 1981 that the economist Amartya Sen’s pioneering work on the 1943 great Bengal famine definitively showed that famines are often manmade, that intuition was already widely shared in the 1840s. John Mitchel, an Irish nationalist who emigrated to the United States, concluded, “No sack of Magdeburg, or ravage of the Palatinate, ever approached in horror and desolation to the slaughters done in Ireland by mere official red tape and stationery, and the principles of political economy.”
Governments everywhere eventually responded to these demands. That meant learning from successful efforts elsewhere. The United Kingdom enacted a series of civil service reforms, adopting a competitive examination process in place of arcane patronage. The most striking extension of state capacity, however, occurred across the English Channel, where Louis-Napoléon, the nephew of the emperor, was elected president of France in 1848. After a coup and a series of plebiscites advertising his competence and activism, Napoleon made himself president for life and, eventually, emperor—Napoleon III. His policies were designed to show the benefits of an efficient autocrat over divided liberal regimes. He initiated large-scale public works projects—including railroad expansions and Baron Haussmann’s famous rebuilding of Paris.
Napoleon also demonstrated his competence by negotiating the Anglo-French tariff agreement of 1860, which reduced duties on important goods traded across the channel. Other countries quickly followed suit and negotiated bilateral trade deals of their own across Europe. But even before 1860, improved communication and transportation meant commerce was surging: global trade in goods accounted for just 4.5 percent of output in 1846 but shot up to 8.9 percent in 1860.
The events of the 1840s also laid the foundation for a wave of institutional changes to address the proliferation of small states with a limited ability to deal with migration. The creation of new nation-states with novel currencies and banking systems, notably Germany and Italy, and administrative reform in the Habsburg empire—ending internal customs duties and serf labor—were all designed to push economic growth. In this context, the American Civil War and the Meiji Restoration in Japan were also nation-building efforts meant to maximize the effectiveness and capacity of institutions. The abolition of slavery in the United States and feudalism in Japan were profound social and economic transformations. Both upheavals, moreover, led to monetary and banking reforms.
Business competence was also newly in demand. In 1851, the United Kingdom celebrated its industrial strength with the Great Exhibition—an international fair intended to display British ingeniousness and mechanical superiority, as well as the virtues of peaceful commerce. Some of the most stunning products, however, were neither British nor particularly peaceful—among them, the steel cannon, invented by a German, Alfred Krupp, and the revolver, developed by an American, Samuel Colt. British observers saw continental Europeans catching up and overtaking their own country. To the British scientist Lyon Playfair, the exhibition showed “very clearly and distinctly that the rate of industrial advance of many European nations, even of those who were obviously in our rear, was at a greater rate than our own.” He went on: “In a long race the fastest sailing ship will win, even though they are for a time behind.” The event taught world leaders a powerful lesson: international trade was vital for enhancing national performance. Competition was central to generating competence.
The result was an abrupt psychological shift from catastrophism to optimism, and from despair to self-confidence. This new mood initiated the first wave of globalization—its so-called golden age, in which international trade and finance expanded rapidly. Eventually, however, this optimism gave way to complacency, then doubts about the benefits of globalization and increasing disillusion among those left behind (notably European farmers). The upswing came to an end with World War I. That conflict prompted a massive international rebuilding effort that faltered bloodily with the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the advent of World War II.
A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM
The makers of the postwar settlement in 1945 had learned a great deal from the mistakes of the last century. They created an extensive framework of international institutions but left substantial economic control in the hands of national authorities. As a result, the end of World War II did not immediately unleash waves of capital mobility like those that had characterized the nineteenth century. Nearly three decades later, however, the dilemmas raised by shortages and scarcity that had led to earlier versions of integration finally returned—setting the stage for the current era of globalization.
In the 1970s, after two large oil price hikes, the industrialized world saw its way of life threatened. Oil prices had been stable in the 1960s, but a surge in demand taught producers that they could exploit control over the world’s most important commodity. Adding to the crunch, the first oil shock, in 1973–74, was accompanied by a 30 percent rise in wheat prices, after the Soviet Union experienced poor harvests and bought up U.S. grain to compensate. Shortages reappeared. Some oil-importing countries imposed “car-free days” as a way of rationing gasoline consumption. As states spent more on oil, grain, and other commodities, they found their balance of payments squeezed. Unable to afford vital goods from abroad, governments had to make hard choices. Many floundered as they tried to ration scarce goods: mandating who could drive cars when or struggling over whether they should pay nurses more than teachers, police officers, or civil servants.
The immediate and instinctual response to scarcity was protectionism. In the United Kingdom, where the balance-of-payments problem appeared earlier than elsewhere, the government tried a domestic purchasing campaign, supported by all the major political parties. Leaders encouraged citizens to wear stickers and badges with the Union Jack and the message “I’m backing Britain.” (The press magnate Robert Maxwell distributed T-shirts with a similar slogan, but they turned out to be made in Portugal.) In the mid-1970s, after the first oil shock, the government briefly flirted with what the Labour Party’s left flank called a “siege economy,” including extensive import restrictions. In the United States, there was acute anxiety about Japanese competition, and in 1981, Washington pressured Tokyo to sign an agreement that limited Japanese car exports. The move backfired, however. Because of the new restrictions, Japanese producers merely shifted their focus away from cheap, fuel-efficient cars and toward luxury vehicles.
Despite these gestures at economic nationalism, the oil shock—paradoxically at first—created more globalization. In conjunction with price increases, a financial revolution driven by the emergence of large international banks transferred huge surpluses accumulated by oil producers into lendable funds. The new availability of money made resources easily accessible for governments all over the world that wanted to push development and growth. International demand thus surged. In contrast, in the United Kingdom, Labour’s siege economy looked like it would cut off access to markets and prosperity.
Familiar historical forces will drive post-pandemic reglobalization.
Thus, crises in the 1970s led to the same realization as in the 1840s: openness produced resilience, and financing needed to be available for trade to expand. The eventual impact was obvious: trade in goods and services, which in 1970 had amounted to 12.1 percent of global GDP, increased to 18.2 percent by 1980. The cycle swung back to globalization once again.
Protectionism in the 1970s also triggered a discussion of whether governments were handling the crisis competently. At first, the debate was personalized and highly caricatured: in the United States, it centered on Richard Nixon’s crookery, Gerald Ford’s supposed inability to chew gum and walk, or Jimmy Carter’s micromanagement.In the United Kingdom, commentators focused on the detached bachelor existence of Prime Minister Edward Heath and then on allegations of cronyism against his successor, Harold Wilson. France went into the oil shock under the very sick President Georges Pompidou, who died of cancer in 1974. In West Germany, the revelation that Chancellor Willy Brandt’s closest assistant was an East German spy undermined the country’s reputation for competence. His successor, Helmut Schmidt, believed that Germany was returning to the chaos of the interwar Weimar Republic.
The many examples of personal incompetence in rich industrial democracies generated the thesis that such countries had become ungovernable. The political theorist Jean-François Revel concluded that democracies were perishing and that the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War. Autocracies such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet and Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi appeared better suited to handle modern global challenges. The autocrats lectured others about their superiority. In reality, however, they were bloody, corrupt, and, in many cases, spectacularly unsuccessful.
The real insight of the debate over administrative effectiveness was that governments could overstretch themselves by taking on too many tasks. That realization inspired a key tenet of what was later widely derided as “neoliberalism”: the belief that if governments took on microdecisions, such as determining wage and price levels (a central part of both Nixon’s and the British government’s bids to contain inflation), they risked their legitimacy and reputation for competence. Official decisions would appear both arbitrary and unenforceable because powerful groups would quickly make sure that new settlements favored their interests.
The challenge of the new upswing in the cycle of globalization will be to find ways to learn and adapt.
HAROLD JAMES is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and the author of the forthcoming book The War of Words: A Glossary of Globalization.
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