Well-considered, revisionist analysis of the fierce debate about the future of our world economy.
Journalist and policy analyst Engler writes from a leftist position, but since he acknowledges and describes mistakes he and his peers have made, most readers will find his views stimulating. He begins in the 1990s, when the Clinton administration enthusiastically supported a supranational, free-market, corporate-controlled world economy. When the laid-back Clinton departed, replaced by a more pugnacious president, left-wing critics predicted more of the same. On the contrary, Engler points out, neoconservatives despised Clinton’s reliance on “soft power” (trade and aid) to project American capitalist influence, maintaining that only military might could ensure U.S. security while bringing freedom and the free market to the world. Marxist dogma to the contrary, the author writes, businessmen don’t like war; it enriches a few but inflicts uncertainty and aggravation on the majority. Despite their differences, Bush’s American empire and Clinton’s multilateral globalism have the same goal: a happy world in which democratic governments minimize taxes and business regulation to ensure free trade, a free market and free movement of capital. This doesn’t work, the author states bluntly. Asian governments that protect infant industries and regulate markets have prospered. Poor nations that have thrown open their markets in South America and Africa have found the results to be unimpressive, sometimes catastrophic. Painting a vivid picture of free-market globalism’s dismal impact on developing nations, Engler advocates a populist “democratic globalism” to replace the two current versions. Unlike many idealists, he rejects trendy illusions like returning to a village economy and warns against such politically suicidal ideas as asking for short-term sacrifices to bring long-term benefits.
Engler’s plan may or may not stand much of a chance against world business leaders who retain an unshakeable belief in pure free-market capitalism, but his arguments will win many readers’ sympathy.