Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fair Weather Globalization?

If Globalization is to have any merit whatsoever, surely it must obey one uncontroversial principle: we stick together, through the good times and the bad. If not all countries are willing to stimulate their economies to help drag the world out of its mess, then why in the Hell should the ordinary citizen accept the price that globalization often asks him to pay when times are good?

Time Magazine's "Curious Capitalist" blog shows that among wealthy nations, only the U.S., China and Spain and to a lesser extent Japan are spending significant resources on economic recovery. This speaks ill of most of our European partners who, clearly, should be doing more to pull their own weight. The U.S. cannot be expected to bail out the whole world all by itself.

Australia 0.9%
Brazil 0.2%
China 6.9%
France 1.3%
Germany 1.6%
Italy 0.3%
Japan 2.3%
Russia 1.1%
Spain 8.1%
United Kingdom 0.9%
United States 5.5%

The world economy runs the risk of falling prey to the classic free rider problem if some rich nations seek to escape the economic downturn on the backs of other wealthy nations' stimulus. Here again, the world must stand together, or it will surely fall apart. The only question is how do we provide a mechanism to avoid the free rider problem? Ordinarily the free rider problem is solved by a government through taxation of citizens who share in the common good. But there is no world government to speak of. A different option, then, might be a coordinated post-recovery scheme of punitive tariffs levied against nations who were seen to have shirked their responsibility throughout the crisis.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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