From the liberal economic model to the proposal of a global economy
Solidarity and shared purpose – both within and across nations – seem to be in short supply in the current world economy. Nevertheless, the current state of affairs may offer an important opportunity for thinking in creative new ways about what an economy based on solidarity and reconciliation might entail.
The year 2016 saw an unprecedented swing in views of worldwide economic relations; at no time in the last 70 years has the basic orientation of the economy been more widely questioned. With the vote of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and the rise of nationalistic political contenders in many countries, the seeming consensus toward a liberal capitalist model of economic relations – in which open trade and free competition were expected to yield shared prosperity – has shown fundamental fissures. Longstanding concerns about equity and inclusion have been joined by a growing rejection of the cosmopolitan worldview that liberalism seemed to embrace. For the first time, perhaps, thinkers from across the political spectrum have come to see the reigning economic model as broken in either big or small ways.
The liberal model held sway for nearly all of the postwar era, promising to foster efficiency and productivity, and to bind nations together through trade agreements and fluid financial flows. This open model delivered significant growth: at no point in human history have as many people moved out of abject poverty. This is a massive accomplishment.
But the model did not benefit all people equally. Nor did it ensure their stability in better circumstances. Instead, the separation between the most prosperous and least prosperous members of society has grown in the majority of countries around the world. Middle-class status has proven remarkably tenuous, with frequent layoffs and wages subject to volatility and the loss of value through inflation. Thus, the economy that produced such incredible growth was accompanied by a growing increase in social inequality.