So far, the international economic consequences of the war in the Caucasus have been fairly minor, despite Georgia’s role as a major corridor for oil shipments. But as I was reading the latest bad news, I found myself wondering whether this war is an omen — a sign that the second great age of globalization may share the fate of the first.Oh noes, it's the end of globalization! Great-grandpa summered on the Crimean, and all I got was this stupid pipeline. Um.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, here’s what you need to know: our grandfathers lived in a world of largely self-sufficient, inward-looking national economies — but our great-great grandfathers lived, as we do, in a world of large-scale international trade and investment, a world destroyed by nationalism.
In the Krugster's authorial voice, I detect a mixture of preemptive eulogizing and told-ya-so schadenfreude. The Krug believes in some kind of managerial materialism, and he believes, as he says explicitly at the end of the column, that the precondition for a lasting global order is for big governments to act "sensibly." No shit. The Krug's history leaves a little something to be desired. Was fin-de-siècle-through-Great-War really the first age of "large-scale international trade and investment"? How about the great Mercantile era in the 18th Century? How about the Silk Road?
Meanwhile, the English gentleman in the Krug's Keynseian anecdote could indeed pick up the phone and order anything in the goddamn world while sipping his Earl Grey. This may have had something to do with being in the inheritor class of a nation that held one quarter of the planet's land surface in imperial bondage. The "first era of globalization" was the high point of European colonialism, and what is in fact meant by Keynes' observation that a European could "adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world" is that Europe could extract natural resources and cheap labor from its colonial possessions. Well, maybe things haven't changed so much.
The Krug goes on to fret:
[If] Russia is willing and able to use force to assert control over its self-declared sphere of influence, won’t others do the same? Just think about the global economic disruption that would follow if China — which is about to surpass the United States as the world’s largest manufacturing nation — were to forcibly assert its claim to Taiwan.And here, between the lines, we see the neoliberal understanding of this "globalization" argot they're so fond of tossing around the playground: America ascendent, Europe complaint, Russia reduced, and China cheap. You really can't beat that "self-declared" dig for sheer Americo-exceptionalist audacity, as if our "sphere of influence" (i.e. everywhere) arose out of the primeval imagination of the creator god back when he was parting the waters and scattering the sky with stars.