Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

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Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

This brilliantly original book dismantles the underlying assumptions that drive the decisions made by companies and governments throughout the world, to show that our shared narrative of the global economy is deeply flawed. If left unexamined, they will lead corporations and countries astray, with dire consequences for us all. Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

For the past fifty years or so, the global economy has been run on three big assumptions: that globalization will continue to spread, that trade is the engine of growth and development, and that economic power is moving from the West to the East. More recently, it has also been taken as a given that our interconnectedness—both physical and digital—will increase without limit. But what if all these ideas are wrong? What if everything is about to change? What if it has already begun to change but we just haven’t noticed? Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

Increased automation, the advent of additive manufacturing (3D printing, for example), and changes in shipping and environmental pressures, among other factors, are coming together to create a fast-changing global economic landscape in which the rules are being rewritten—at once a challenge and an opportunity for companies and countries alike. Podcast 2020: Finbarr Livesey From Global to Local

 

Review

 

“Refreshing . . . The future of globalization may be determined less by a rarified battle of ideas than by something as simple as the 3D printer. Finbarr Livesey’s book gives a nod to the idea that protectionist politicians are a threat to world trade, but his focus is very largely on the impersonal progress of technology . . . [He offers] detailed descriptions of individual products and processes he has gleaned through his years of consulting for international companies.”
—Alan Beattie, Financial Times

“The great strength of Livesey’s book is to make us look more closely and intelligently at the underlying drivers of globalization. Whether more or less of it, there will surely be a different kind of globalization in the coming years. Livesey’s fine book will help us understand and anticipate the changing dynamics of global economic interdependence.”
—Finance & Development

 

About the Author

 

FINBARR LIVESEY is a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. He has consulted for a number of national governments and presented to multinational corporations on new models of industrial policy. Livesey studied public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and was a director of GeoPartners, a consultancy based in Boston. He also assisted in setting up the Open Economies Project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

An excerpt from Chapter 1: Go East, Young Man?

For the past thirty years or more, the global economy has been run based on three big assumptions: that globalization will continue to increase, that trade is the route to growth and development, and that economic power is moving from the West to the East. More recently, it has been taken as a given that our levels of interconnectedness—both physical and digital—will rise without limit. But what if some or all of these assumptions are wrong? What if everything is about to change? Indeed, what if the global economy has already started to change its rules, but we just haven’t noticed?

This is a story that is hard to tell. When there have been thousands if not millions of books, articles and academic papers claiming that globalization is the only game in town, saying that it isn’t so may lead to me being put to the back of the class. If you are to believe much that is written on the evolution of the global economy, we have arrived at the equivalent of Fukuyama’s (in)famous End of History, but this time for companies.1 The caricature version of Fukuyama’s thesis was that liberal democracy had won out over all other forms of political organization. Communism had fallen, socialism was nowhere to be seen, there were no more challengers left on the field. Twenty-five years later what was an irresistible thesis had fallen from grace. “Today, it’s hard to imagine Fukuyama being more wrong.”2

Globalization has become something analogous, portrayed as the end of economic history in many articles. In the common currently accepted version of the story of our world economy, offshoring of production to Asia by the developed economies came, made and won. The specter of China in particular looms large, with millions of cheap workers, huge industrial cities created instantly where there was nothing and a scale of ambition that seems to dwarf that of the West. For many commentators, politicians and economists this is a game that is already over. In their eyes we’ve seen a permanent deindustrialization of the West and economic power has shifted significantly and permanently eastward.

But sometimes the stories that seem the most secure are actually fading away from the inside out. Our faith in the shining city on a hill, the project of American democracy, appears to have been significantly tarnished through the presidential election campaign of 2016. The long running Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis that it has spawned have challenged our ideas of progress and the march of peace through democratization. And there are new voices questioning whether we’ve really settled on this new global economic order, questioning whether we are telling the right story about the world economy as we move further into the new century. These are the voices that will be heard in this telling of the global economy.

The core argument of this book is that the accepted interpretation of the future of globalization is misleading and awed. We are running the global economy on a model that went out of date without anyone noticing at some point in the past decade. But working as if continuing globalization (or hyper-globalization for some) is the only show in town opens us all up to huge risk, potentially as dangerous as the financial crash of 2008 that brought the world economy to its knees.

The Titanic provides an unexpected metaphor for this phenomenon. Apparently, the most senior officer to survive its sinking, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, said on his deathbed that there had been an order to steer away from the iceberg but that it had been misinterpreted. If true, how could such a thing have happened? Left is left or in this case, port is port—surely? Maybe not. At the time of the Titanic’s maiden voyage the shipping industry was going through major changes as sail was giving way to steam. With that came a change in how ships were steered, from tiller to wheel. Why is that important? Well, with a tiller you steer away from the direction in which you want to go, whereas with a wheel you steer toward it. So the order the captain would have given to turn to port on a steamship such as the Titanic was the exact opposite of that used on a sailing ship. And the helmsman may have misunderstood his command. e order and the execution were carried out in two different languages.

This may be just another great tall story to add to the Titanic archive but, whether it is true or not, it highlights the importance of having a narrative that reflects how the world works today, rather than how it worked yesterday. For if the story or shorthand we carry in our heads is out of date and wrong it can lead to catastrophic consequences, whether it is the loss of a ship, the greatest recession in a hundred years, or, as this book will suggest, many countries entering an economic wilderness in the coming decades.

Out-of-date stories and understandings are everywhere once you start to look, from our private lives up to narratives about the world itself. On a personal level, for how long after a relationship has effectively ended does one of the soon-to-be ex-partners cling to the belief that all is well? And how long do we hold on to a mental picture of ourselves in our twenties when we’ve long ago passed into our forties or fifties? On a macro level, the world has a long history of out-of-date stories causing more than a little trouble—the long and bloody history of proving that the earth revolves around the sun, the Cuban missile crisis and, of course, every financial crash from the South Sea Bubble to that of 2008, in which many individuals, investors and governments believed wrongly that risk had been designed out of the financial system when the exact opposite was true. It is hard to shake a story once it has become established. But without challenging our world view on a regular basis we run the risk of steering the global economy into another iceberg.

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