Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Considering Integration

In the Washington Post this weekend, Lawrence Summers noted some of the tensions experienced by nations across the world.  Summers argues that the post-World War II order has been marked by what he terms a project of global "integration," and the residents of many nations have new doubts about some of this project of integration.

One of the key things Summers notes is "the kind of disintegration that accompanies global integration as local communities suffer when major employers lose out to foreign competitors."  The importance of civil integration has been a favored topic of mine, so I can't resist adding to Summers' point to suggest that this is not simply a matter of economic dislocation.  The transnationalist agenda of identity politics has also attacked a broader sense of civic togetherness, which has profound social and cultural implications as well.

Tellingly, Summers argues that it's time for supporters of globalization to change course: 
Elites can continue on the current path of pursuing integration projects and defending existing integration, hoping to win enough popular support that their efforts are not thwarted. On the evidence of the U.S. presidential campaign and the Brexit debate, this strategy may have run its course.
Summers says that, rather than just continuing along the same path, proponents of global integration need to "shift from international trade agreements to international harmonization agreements," do more to refine international tax law, and attend to the concerns of the middle class.

Whether or not one agrees with Summers' proposals (and I personally think they have their limits), what's perhaps most noteworthy about this column is that it's another piece of evidence to show that even proponents of the current iteration of globalization have begun realize that the status quo is potentially on the verge of breaking down.  If even Larry Summers has doubts...

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