LONDON – Is the world economy globalizing or deglobalizing? The answer would have seemed obvious in 1990. Communism had just collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe. In China, Deng Xiaoping was unleashing capitalist enterprise. And political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the “end of history,” by which he meant the triumph of liberal democracy and free markets.
Years earlier, the British economist Lionel Robbins, a firm believer in free markets, warned that the shaky political foundations of the postwar international order could not support a globalized economy. But in the euphoria and triumphalism of the early 1990s, such warnings fell on deaf ears. This was, after all, a “unipolar moment,” and American hegemony was the closest thing to a world government. With the Soviet Union vanquished, the thinking went, the last political barrier to international economic integration had been removed.