I never finished Globalization and its Discontents, the book that made Joseph Stiglitz a cult hero of the political left. I was sympathetic to the thesis that the Washington Consensus served one group of people (American and European corporations and their shareholders) at the expense of another group (workers and farmers in developing countries). But Stiglitz was too much of a firebrand for my taste, so I set the book aside with the intention of returning to it at some point. That was more than a decade ago and I have yet to so.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if I was too quick to dismiss Stiglitz? The army of discontents he observed in the 1990s has been joined by disenchanted workers in the US and Europe, who were told freer trade would make them richer. Those dreams ended with the financial crisis, and the disappointment has manifested into electoral nightmares in the US, the UK, France and elsewhere. “The main message of Globalization and its Discontents was that the problem was not globalization, but how the process was being managed,” Stiglitz wrote in an op-ed for Project Syndicate on Aug. 5. “Unfortunately, the management didn’t change. Fifteen years later, the new discontents have brought that message home to the advanced economies.”
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