Thursday, May 15, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Does Summers signal autumn for globalization?

Last week I wrote about the shift among liberal free-traders toward a more skeptical view of globalization and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers' potentially dangerous solutions. Looks like I wasn't the only one to notice. In today's Financial Times, three globalization watchers ask:

Is a liberal international economic order losing intellectual support? Should developing economies be worried? If Larry Summers is the canary in the intellectual mine, his two columns in the Financial Times (April 28 and May 5) suggest that the answers to both questions are yes.

The authors criticize Summers for laying globalization's foundation -- mobile capital, increased international IP protection, trade liberalization -- but now urging government-heavy reforms of the international order that could hurt the very nations that he nudged toward the market just a decade ago. Shouldn't the U.S., they ask, get its own house in order first?

The non-U.S. world, they conclude, should prepare for a jolting anti-globalization retrenchment from America in the coming years:

the manner in which his position is framed, the inconsistencies of the arguments across time, the inappropriate transferring of the burden of any response from domestic actions to international ones, and the susceptibility of the proposed remedies to protectionist misuse point to a more alarming prospect for developing countries. The ground is shifting under their feet. They would do well to take notice.

The recent Summers chill could mean an early autumn for free trade and global innovation.

posted by Bret Swanson @ 9:51 AM | Trade