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There is a link between liberalism and economic performance

, October 7, 2019, 0 Comments

No excuse is ever required to admire the lustrous romanticism of the poet John Keats and here we are in Autumn (only in high Northern latitudes, of course!). Confusing metaphorical mists may be swirling around in politics, economics and markets but they are failing to conceal the absence of mellowness and the shortage of fruitfulness. In fact, the same rather negative themes have persisted for much of the year.

In my remarks to the bi-annual conference of Global Alliance Partners in Bangkok in May I highlighted:

Divisions between and within nations
Decoupling of economies, including trade and investment flows
Desperation as investors hunt for yield to match historic returns.

In revisiting these issues, this edition of Economic Insights is more about low growth and low returns rather than no growth and no returns. Nevertheless, unlike Keats’s ‘To Autumn’, it is in prose and offers little romance and less lustre, alas!

liberalism-economic-performances

Triumph of experience over hope?

Figure offers some solace to those of us who believe liberal democracy and capitalism are still worth saving even from the capitalists themselves, while not disregarding the efforts of China and other developing nations to lift so many millions out of poverty. However, protectionism and rule by ‘strong men’ have come back into vogue. Perhaps Messrs Trump, Xi and Putin see themselves as the successors of C18th Enlightened Despots who emerged from the economic explosion in Europe following the Reformation and Voyages of Discovery but they and their imitators now seem rather to be rather keener on arbitrary factionalism.

One does not need to be politically-partisan to question the economic benefits of government policies in states as diverse as Iran, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, and the UK as well as the US, China and Russia. To be fair, one has to doubt the economic impact of any change in the leaders of most of these places. A more interesting question is whether their policies are at most catalysts in profound global economic changes. Meanwhile the divisions are multiplying.