This collection of essays has been praised by the controversial historian Niall Ferguson. The text was produced in response to the global financial crisis. A range of movers and shakers contributed to the book, working from a diversity of perspectives. Nevertheless, the bulk of the thinkers who added to the project came from the right and the centre of the ideological spectrum.
The result of the ideological bias was that the essays were stronger in their description than in their analysis. It was remarkable how many economists, business leaders and politicians wanted to get back to something like business as usual after 2008. Some of them realised that the environmental threat required tackling, but many failed to appreciate just how hard it would be to cope with international economic imbalances and serious problems with economic performance. Many contributors tried to situate the crisis in historical or geographical perspective, but few were prepared to unpick the complexities of contemporary globalisation.
Globalisation is not something which is natural, even, irreversible or value-free. It is a contested discourse used by actors to advance specific agendas. States and firms can use globalisation to legitimise their actions, but democratic governance is never about simply adapting to a reality of globalisation. Neither economic nor cultural globalisation can be measured with ease as different experts will use various data sets. The preferences of economists dictate their policy prescriptions almost as much as the ‘real world’ problems faced by others.
For example, Professor Edmund Phelps endorsed supporting dynamism and inclusion through employment, while denying he was a neo-liberal. His pragmatism was hostile to Keynesian principles and it involved backing piecemeal reform. However, his intellectual reliance on F.A. Hayek made one question how sceptical he was of state intervention. The crisis had been exacerbated by inadequate state regulation of markets. His main point was to defend the status quo against ill-specified people from Europe. The winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2006 wrote:
“Europeans, in vilifying all hedge funds, all private equity and all short-selling, make it much more difficult than it already was to increase dynamism in their economies- and without getting at the real sources of excessive instability.”