Thursday, 4 November 2021

Anthea Roberts & Nicholas Lamp & why foxes shit on carpets

Anthea Roberts & Nicholas Lamp published 'Six faces of Globalisation' in 2017. They have an article in Aeon where they claim that

1) 'narratives' matter. 

2) 'Hedgehog' narratives- one's which feature one big point- are worse than 'Fox' narratives- i.e. narratives which shift between strategies like the agile fox

The problem here is that 'narratives' don't matter. They may be wholly divorced from the actual policies which are being implemented. Further, policies have unexpected consequences. It is frequently the case that some obscure clause in a Law or a Treaty causes a fundamental shift which nobody at that time expected.

They write

Debates about economic globalisation are often dominated by hedgehogs – actors who interpret and evaluate the dynamics and consequences of globalisation through a single lens. Take the narrative that dominated the debate about globalisation in the West from the collapse of the Soviet Union until the global financial crisis in 2008. On this view, economic liberalisation promised to grow the pie so that everyone – developed and developing countries, rich and poor – would be better off. This confident perspective touted free trade as a win-win outcome that would create peace and prosperity for all.

The authors don't seem to realize that no government has ever promised to shrink the pie so that everybody is worse off. Socialism promised to grow the pie for everyone. So did Fascism. So did Obama. So did Trump. So did Biden. So will his successor.

Most people now agree that when Clinton pushed through a free trade deal for China, which Dubya doubled down on, what we got was unfair trade, not free trade. America allowed an enemy with a very different type of ideology to rise up to a position where it now challenges the West for hegemony over large parts of the globe. 

Right-wing populists lament the decay of America’s rust belt,

But so do Left-Liberals who actually live there. Obama showed some sensitivity to those areas. It was hoped that he could give them a 'New Deal' based on massive infrastructure investment such that they could move laterally into 'sunrise' industries. Biden may have a similar plan. Sadly it appears that he can't get his big spending plans approved by the Legislature. 

warning of the need to protect the native working class against the offshoring of manufacturing jobs and the onshoring of immigrants.

The decline of some industries dated back to the Seventies or even earlier when Industrial policy had the whip hand over Trade policy. One aspect of globalization, for advanced countries, was the possibility of foreign direct investment in more productive and efficient plant and equipment producing the sort of things which customers liked and which they were prepared to pay high custom duties to import. Furthermore, foreign MNCs preferred to invest in 'greenfield' sites in the 'Sun belt' thus creating jobs for people used to much lower wages. The problems of some old 'Marshallian' industrial districts was that old resentments and an unproductive type of militancy had become ingrained both in inner city politics as well as the Labor movement. Traditional power elites had become complacent and preferred subsidies from the Government to pursuing innovation and customer satisfaction. The alternative to globalization was 'Corporate welfare' which meant 'stagflation' and misery for the consumer. 

Left-wing populists and critics of corporate power protest that globalisation’s advantages often accrue mainly to rich people and powerful multinationals, hollowing out the middle class.

This is why the Left has lost salience. In the West, productivity is considered the key to prosperity. The middle class is aware that it just isn't very productive and that new technology makes a big profit by taking over many of their previous functions. The solution here involves radically changing the education system. It is obvious that a guy writing code for 'apps' has the potential to be a million times more productive than the professors writing stupid articles like this. True, some college graduates may get jobs in 'compliance'- i.e. ensuring everybody's complaint of having been sexually assaulted by that highly racist photocopier on the third floor is properly logged and processed- but it is obvious that more and more compliance isn't going to raise productivity. It is going to kill off what little of it that remains. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have heightened anxiety about the resilience and sustainability of our economies.

It has highlighted a known exception to Trade based on Comparative Advantage- viz. national vulnerability to disruption of global supply chains. 

We are at a critical juncture: a relatively long period of stability in mainstream thinking about economic globalisation has given way to a situation of dramatic flux.

This may have been true when Trump was first elected or Brexit was still novel. But that was 5 years ago. The world has changed. 

During such periods, narratives assume particular relevance because they offer new ways for actors to understand what the problem is and what should be done about it.

The problem here is that the 'narratives' behind Trump and Brexit and so forth had been around for decades. One reason they got the upper hand was because there was no 'counter-narrative'. There was merely complacency and condescension on the part of the 'great and the good'.  


The interplay of different narratives could be the starting point of a nuanced appraisal of the complexities, uncertainties and ambiguities of economic globalisation.

No it couldn't. Narratives regarding the economy are based on economics which explains why narratives can change dramatically without affecting anything at all. 

More often, however, debates about economic globalisation devolve into stand-offs among hedgehogs who emphasise the validity of their perspective while seeking to expose their opponents as economically illiterate, politically dangerous or morally bankrupt.

This may seem a big deal if you are a Professor. But respect for professors of non-STEM subjects has never been very high. 

A prime example of such a standoff was the reaction by establishment figures to the critiques of free trade and immigration that animated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the United States and the Brexit movement in the United Kingdom.

Their reaction was to complacently assume that their favored candidate would emerge the stronger. David Cameron was expected to crush BoJo and to secure himself against the troublesome Eurosceptic wing of his party. Hillary was expected to get a walk-over. It was suggested that Trump didn't really want to win. He was just generating publicity for himself so as to relaunch his TV career.  

Many curled up into a ball of spikes, disparaging opponents for their stupidity and self-interest. But proponents of the insurgent narratives have been no less at fault: they have drawn much of their energy from their ability to present a radically different perspective, often at the cost of nuance and a willingness to compromise.

This is silly. You should not show 'nuance' or a willingness to compromise if you are engaged in a knock-down drag-out fight. It is a different matter that once in power, you should do sensible things. Trump, for all his bluster, did sensible things. But for COVID, he would have got a second term. 


None of this is to say that the perspectives brought to light by the hedgehogs are not valid and valuable. Some of them harness the empirical and theoretical tools of particular academic disciplines to build our knowledge of the global economy, polity and environment. Others articulate a particular value system and spell out its ethical ramifications for organising the global flow of goods, people, capital, data and ideas. Each of these perspectives expresses a different viewpoint and sheds light on a piece of the puzzle.

This is foolish. The narratives don't matter. The Structural Causal Models behind them do. But testing those Models requires data mining and statistical savvy not lending an ear to story-tellers. 


Yet debates dominated by hedgehogs hinder us from moving forward.

Nonsense! We don't listen to silly debates unless we are pedagogues and are paid to give ear to puerile Spiderman vs Dracula debates.

These debates tend to oscillate between two extremes. On some issues, proponents of different narratives seem to inhabit different worlds, with little or no interaction (silos).

They are competing with each other for funding or else are trying to shill their latest book. 

Some know a lot about inequality, for instance, but little about great-power competition or how the two might relate. At other times, the advocates of rival approaches clash forcefully, but the sides are so deeply entrenched in their own worldviews that genuine dialogue seems impossible (polarisation).

Dialogue does not matter. People on opposite sides of the globe who don't speak each other's language can collaborate on all sorts of projects. The test is whether the finished project has market value.  


In order to grapple with complex issues such as economic globalisation, we need to

be very smart and have access to powerful econometric tools and big data sets. It doesn't matter if you are foxy or hedgehog like or, indeed, if you like to dress up as a bunny rabbit to engage in cosplay on the weekends.  

develop more fox-like approaches that seek to overcome the silos and polarisation that are the hallmark of contemporary debates. The fact that hedgehogs have been dominating public debates about economic globalisation not only impedes our understanding of complex phenomena but makes it difficult for us to appreciate and accommodate the different values at stake. It is time for a more foxy approach.

But the 'foxy approach' of these two cretins has achieved nothing at all.  


The first step to developing such an approach is to understand what the hedgehogs have been saying about economic globalisation. In our book Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why It Matters (2021), we identify six main narratives driving debates in the West about the virtues and vices of economic globalisation. These narratives provide the storylines through which people perceive reality and communicate their understandings and values. They fall into three broad categories: win-win, win-lose and lose-lose narratives.

Looking at who funds 'narratives' will explain why some flourish while others are forced into the ghetto of self-publishing.  


The establishment narrative has been the dominant frame for understanding economic globalisation in the West over the past three decades. It sees globalisation as an unstoppable but overwhelmingly beneficial force. It focuses on rising productivity and declining poverty rates, emphasising economic efficiency and the virtues of countries and companies playing to their comparative advantage. This ‘everybody wins’ view has been espoused by many institutions that serve as the guardians of the international economic order, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

There is more to this. Where losers exist, we can point to specific non-market rigidities which Governments should get rid off through better mechanism design. Furthermore, doing smart things will itself attract the resources required to fix the problem.  


The establishment narrative has now been dislodged from its dominant position.

By what? Non-market rigidities leading to bad decision making and paranoid or pie in the sky narratives. This is why Biden is finding it so difficult to finance his big 'New Deal'. People don't believe there is any actual economic theory behind it. The thing is bound to degenerate into boondoggle. But, when it comes to pork-barrel politics, it is the stand-out Congressman or Senator who gets more pork. Hopefully, the victory of a Republican in Virginia will concentrate minds and Biden may get the money he wants later today. 

In the decade following the global financial crisis, previously marginalised narratives have made their way to the centre of political debate.

Why? Because ordinary people no longer believed they would receive a big enough capital gain on home ownership to compensate for lower real wages as a result of International competition.  

While the establishment narrative assumes that everyone wins, four other hedgehog narratives argue that economic globalisation produces both winners and losers. Where they differ is in who wins and who loses, what causes these distributive outcomes, and why they are problematic.

No. It is obvious who loses- it's the guys whose real wages have gone down- and it is equally obvious who wins- it is the guys flying off into space on their own rocket-ships.  


On the Left of the political spectrum, we see two narratives that emphasise how gains from economic globalisation have flowed upward to rich individuals and multinational corporations.

The G20 has accepted this view. There will be higher taxes for both- though the devil is in the detail. 

On the Right of the political spectrum, we find two narratives that see the gains from globalisation flowing sideways to foreigners and foreign countries.

Obama was called the deporter in chief though Clinton deported more. Biden is pretty cautious on this issue. Campus Lefties may say what they like but this is a done deal.  


The Left-wing populist narrative focuses on the ways in which national economies are rigged to channel the gains from globalisation to the privileged few. Even as countries have seen their economies grow, many have also experienced a sharp increase in inequality, with a growing divide between rich and poor and a hollowing-out of the middle class. Whereas some proponents point the finger at chief executive officers, bankers and billionaires (the top 1 per cent of the global population), others take aim at the educated professional class and the upper middle class more broadly (the top 20 per cent). Either way, the poor and working class have lost out.

There is little evidence that they greatly care about relative inequality. They are focused on the threat of an absolute fall in their material standard of living and a decline in life-chances for their children.  Sadly, meeting environmental targets and the increased 'compliance' costs of a 'woke' Society dooms them to absolute decline though shiny Korean consumer electronics may dim the pain. 


Proponents of the related corporate power narrative argue that the real winners from economic globalisation are multinational corporations, which can take advantage of a global marketplace to produce cheaply, sell everywhere, and pay as little in taxes as possible. These companies use their power to shape international rules in areas that advantage them, such as trade and investment, while lobbying against effective international cooperation on subjects that might disadvantage them, such as taxation. According to this narrative, economic globalisation produces many losers – workers, communities, citizens, governments – but only one winner: corporations.

The problem here is that corporations can pretend to represent 'stakeholders' and then demand Government money to pursue social objectives. Since they can buy influence, they win either way. True, the balance of power may shift from the maverick hedge fund boss or Tech billionaire to guys who went to Yale and who enjoy three martini lunches on their corporate jets. This may look like increased equality because the inflated perks of office are treated as business expenses. 


The sixth hedgehog narrative argues that we are all at risk of losing from economic globalisation

But relative decline was inevitable once China started imitating Korea or Korea started imitating Japan.  


The Right-wing populist narrative shares with the Left-wing version a deep distrust of elites, but the two narratives part company on what they blame the elite for: whereas Left-wing populists fault the elite for enriching themselves, Right-wing populists deride the elite for failing to protect the hardworking native population from threats posed by an external ‘other’. The Right-wing populist narrative thus has a strong horizontal us-versus-them quality, whether expressed through concern about protecting workers from the offshoring of jobs or guarding them against an inflow of immigrants who might compete for those jobs, live off the welfare system, or threaten the native community’s sense of identity.

So, the Right-wing has identified an issue of genuine concern to the poorer element of the indigenous community. The Left have nothing to offer except 'Critical Race theory'- which appears to have been a factor in the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia. 


The geoeconomic narrative focuses on a different kind of external threat: the economic and technological competition between the US and China as great-power rivals. Although both countries have gained from economic globalisation in absolute terms, in relative terms China has closed the gap on the US. The US increasingly perceives China as both an economic competitor and a security threat, lending the geoeconomic narrative an urgency that it did not have during the Cold War. Instead of applauding international trade and investment as enhancing economic welfare and increasing prospects for peace, the geoeconomic narrative emphasises the security vulnerabilities created by economic interdependence and digital connectivity with a strategic rival.

Sadly, there was no narrative till the thing was an accomplished fact. Telling stories may help idle away the hours but it has nothing to do with reality. One reason the US chose to ignore China's rise was because it was busy killing Muslims. Then, quite suddenly, they found the Muslims were winning. One reason for this was that China had quietly supported Muslims abroad while 're-educating' those at home.  


Sometimes these different narratives overlap. For instance, many members of the Trump administration embraced both the Right-wing populist narrative and the geoeconomic one, while presidential candidates such as Elizabeth Warren embodied both the Left-wing populist critique and the corporate power one.

Biden beat her because he was credited with a Law which locked up lots of young African Americans. That was populist- sho' nuff.  

At other times they diverge. For instance, the protests against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Europe were much more strongly motivated by the corporate power narrative than the Left-wing populist one.

This was Obama's project which Trump nixed. However, it is likely that European Governments would have pushed back against the deal once they saw the fine-print. Losing sovereignty to Brussels was one thing- at least you had your own MEPs there- but losing it to Washington was another thing altogether. The Bulgarians had demanded the US lift visa restrictions on their citizens. After all, poorer nations in the EU at least got the benefit of free movement within it. America wanted to dictate policy without giving your people a route to becoming American.  

Different narratives focus on different concerns. While the Right-wing populist narrative laments the loss of the manufacturing jobs of the past, the geoeconomic one focuses on winning the race in the technologies of the future, such as fifth-generation (5G) networks and artificial intelligence.

Why pretend that strategic considerations regarding new and dual use technology have anything to do with 'narratives'? A journalist or statesmen may explain these arcane matters in easy to understand language. But that is description not story telling. 


These win-win and win-lose narratives differ from the sixth hedgehog narrative, which argues that we are all at risk of losing from economic globalisation in its current form. This lose-lose narrative portrays economic globalisation as a source and accelerator of global threats such as pandemics and the climate crisis. Some versions focus on how global connectivity increases the risk of contagion of both viruses and supply chain shocks. Others warn that the skyrocketing carbon emissions associated with the global diffusion of Western patterns of production and consumption are endangering both people and the planet.

This is a scenario not a story. Narratives fit into totalizing 'grand narratives'. Where a nation is governed in a totalitarian manner, such 'grand narratives' have salience. It was once argued that democratic countries actually have a similar unconscious 'grand narrative' but, if so, some may also be shape-shifting lizard people who are 'sleeper agents'. Any day now the Lizard Emperor on the mother ship will press a button and you will suddenly discover that your boss is a lizard. However, your pet lizard is still a tiny little lizard. It can't protect you from your ravenous boss. Sad.


This global threats narrative emphasises our shared humanity; its proponents call for global solidarity and international cooperation in the face of common challenges. They argue that we need to redefine the goals of our economies to enable individuals and societies to survive and thrive within the limits of our planet. This can mean emphasising resilience over efficiency in our supply chains and sustainability over profit-seeking in our economies. Without change, they warn, we run the risk that everybody loses – though some people and countries are likely to lose first and worst.

Because they buy into that stupid Gandhian shite. 


Trained in a world that values hedgehogs, the most common question we encountered in our research was ‘So, which narrative is correct?’

Stories aren't 'correct' or 'incorrect'. They are either gripping or as boring as shit. Descriptions of scenarios may be ranked on the basis of likelihood. But that's Sciencey stuff. 

We also found that proponents of the individual narratives were quick to point out the ways in which their narrative was right and others wrong – a classic hedgehog move.

Whereas a classic fox move would be to shit on your carpet. 

Both approaches missed a deeper point.

Shitting on the carpet of stupid 'researchers' can be fun. 


As with any partial representation of a more complex reality,

a representation is not a narrative though narratives may have descriptive elements.  

each narrative contains some truth but does not tell the whole truth.

The whole truth is unknown.  

Each narrative highlights important aspects of the process of economic globalisation

No. Only Economics highlights aspects of anything economic. Law professors, like these two authors, can only add noise to signal.  

and expresses values that are deeply held by significant numbers of people.

Sadly, 'deeply held values' are quickly traded for tasty food or shiny  

Each narrative reveals and obscures. Rather than defending one narrative as the correct one,

which is what lawyers are paid to do 

we need to adopt more fox-like approaches

lawyers should shit on the Judge's carpet. Also they should kill any chickens he might own.  

that embrace multiple perspectives, holding them in tension and combining their insights.

Cool! When describing your policy proposals you should employ a style based on James Joyce's 'Finnegan's Wake' while shitting on the carpet and stealing chickens in a fox like manner.  


At the analytical level, adopting a more fox-like approach helps in developing better understandings of complex issues.

No. It just leads to endless bullshit. A clean and simple Structural Causal Model with robust instrumental variables yields workable policy proposals. Where they fail the reason for failure can be identified and separately dealt with on a one-off basis. This is better than creating a new policy objective which will have to have its own policy instrument and thus render the decision space multi-dimensional and thus afflicted by concurrency and agenda control problems. 

Economists know this. Law Professors didn't get the memo. 

As the political scientist Philip E Tetlock explains in his book Expert Political Judgment (2005), what experts think matters far less than how they think.

Tetlock's work seemed interesting when it first came out. Since then forecasting on the basis of Big Data has evolved considerably. Regret miniminising multiplicative weights update algorithms have become very sophisticated. However, they are still outperformed by 'evolved' algorithms whose properties are opaque. In other words, Knightian uncertainty means 'black boxes'- not narratives or narratives suitably improved by changing the rules of public discourse- we will always have with us. 

Tetlock finds that hedgehog-like thinkers who know one big thing are often overly confident and inclined to (over)extend the explanatory reach of their expertise into new domains.

Because that's how they maximize funding or reputational benefit.  

Yet they are often far less accurate in their predictions than fox-like thinkers who stitch together diverse sources of information to produce more provisional conclusions.

But both are worse than simple extrapolation with a bit of 'judgmental econometrics' thrown in. But this was already known to be the case when I first went to Collidge in 1979.  


Take the backlash against the French president Emmanuel Macron’s diesel tax as an example.

Economists advised that he should neutralize the 'income effect' of the tax. Sadly the guy had studied Philosophy- that too French philosophy!- not anything sensible at Collidge. Naturally, he fucked up.  

From the perspective of the establishment and global threats narratives, the tax made perfect sense: making fossil fuels more expensive is a market-based way of reducing carbon emissions.

That's the 'substitution effect'. But you have to neutralize the 'income effect' through transfers. Economists have known this for a hundred years. But the thing is common sense.  

The policy failed, however, because Macron did not consider how the tax would appear from the populist perspectives that fuelled the ‘yellow vest’ protests.

Appearances don't matter. French folk- especially in rural areas where public transport was not available- found they couldn't afford to get to work. Their real wage had fallen. So they ran amok.  

Right-wing populists saw the tax as an affront to rural ways of life by city-dwelling elites, while Left-wing populists noted how it burdened poorer populations without equally targeting the habits of the rich, such as flying.

This was irrelevant. The 'yellow vests' had a big impact because it was obvious that people were protesting about something real- viz. they had less money in their pocket. Stories don't matter. Money does. 


If the art of advocacy lies in convincing others to view the world through the lens of your preferred narrative,

but the artist of advocacy needs to get paid. This means she has to learn how to win in a particular forum by taking advantage of its protocols. A court may acquit an obviously guilty person on the basis of a technicality or because the prosecutor comes across as a hard faced bitch. 

A very foolish lawyer would concentrate on getting the Jury to see the world in their own blinkered manner. They'd soon run of clients and thus have to get a job as a Law Professor. 

the art of policymaking requires examining issues through diverse lenses.

No. Policy making is about choosing a Structural Causal model which yields robust policy instruments. It must be done quickly. Go back to Collidge if you want to examine issues through diverse lenses and work out whether you are actually gay or just enjoy sucking off homeless dudes coz it pisses off your Dad who is like totes Nazi, dude.  

The question of whether a country should use the telecommunications company Huawei for its 5G networks is not just about whether Huawei’s products are cheap, reliable and economically efficient; it is also about whether a country is comfortable entrusting its critical infrastructure to a company that is subject to the Chinese government in an era of increased security concerns and geopolitical rivalry.

This question arises in any strategic industry. It is noticeable that private companies have moved away from Huawei absent a Government decision for fear that such a decision might be made sometime down the road. In other words, rational enterprises would price in this sort of risk in decision making. Canada probably will ban Huawei now the Chinese have released two Canadian executives. But this is because of domestic fury against an evil regime which has dropped any pretense of being a cuddly panda bear and which has doubled down on 'wolf warrior' diplomacy. 

Similarly, understanding the spread and impact of the virus SARS-CoV-2 requires an appreciation of the systemic risks arising from global connectivity as well as the variability resulting from domestic inequalities.

Don't outsource 'gain of function' research to Wuhan coz shit which goes down in Wuhan doesn't stay in Wuhan. Do the thing at home or don't do it at all.  

A fox-like approach can also help overcome some of the mutual incomprehension that plagues economic debates.

Shit on the carpet so as to distract the residents while you raid their fridge.  

A fox-like approach encourages us to step into the shoes of the proponents of narratives with which we disagree.

No. Foxes shit in people's shoes any chance they get. Anyway, I'd look a fool if I stepped into BoJo's stilettos.  On the other hand, I'm perfectly happy with my blonde wig. It makes my eyes pop. 

It does not require us to adopt their narrative – we may still contest some of the narrative’s empirical claims, value judgments and policy prescriptions. But if we attempt to see economic globalisation through the lens of another narrative in a charitable and empathetic way,

while offering them plenty of rape counselling and telling them it wasn't their fault that Tucker Carlson sodomized them on Fox TV 

we will gain a better understanding of that narrative’s internal logic, appeal and prescriptions, and a clearer vision of the blind spots and biases of our own preferred narratives and policy options.

Similarly victims of rape should step into the shoes of the rapist and try to gain a better understanding of the rapist's internal logic, appeal and prescriptions. We should have a clearer vision of the blind spots and biases we express when we demand draconian punishment for the guy who gouged out our eyes so as to sodomize our eye sockets.  


To develop more fox-like approaches, we need to get better at integrative thinking.

Presumably, these authors think they are swell at 'integrative thinking'. Apparently it involves pretending you are a fox. Cool.  

This is difficult in today’s environment. Universities typically organise their research and teaching along disciplinary lines

as opposed to letting you get a law degree by studying chemistry 

and thereby encourage depth, specialisation and mastery over breadth, connectivity and creativity.

Very true. You have to study medicine at University if you want to qualify as a surgeon. By contrast drinking at the pub encourages 'breadth, connectivity and creativity' till some thug smashes a glass and carves up your face so as to protest proletarian exclusion from lucrative careers in plastic surgery. 

Policymakers often work in a relatively siloed fashion as different departments take charge of a problem and keep a tight hold of the drafting pen.

Whereas the proper thing to do is to get your grand-kids to draft your policy proposal using crayons.  

Yet complex phenomena such as economic globalisation involve a multitude of interconnected issues that do not fall neatly within the disciplinary and subject-matter lines along which much of our knowledge production is organised.

Nonsense! Economic stuff can only be studied by economists. On the other hand, economists- like Graciella Chichilnisky- make a fool of themselves if they try to intervene in Quantum Mechanics. The reverse, too, holds true.  


The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann was of the view that: ‘In the 21st century, the most important kind of mind will be the synthesising mind.’

Who has the most important kind of mind in 2021? The answer is obvious. It is people who have expert cognition in a narrow field and who use that knowledge to make important decisions quickly and in a robust manner. There are plenty of people who know a bit about Physics and bit about Economics and a bit about the beliefs of the ancient Mayas and some of them can 'synthesize' an article for Aeon in the hope of boosting the sales of their latest book titled 'Mysteries of Mayan Quantum Macroeconomics'.  

The synthesising mind takes in and evaluates information from disparate sources,

Like David Icke. 

knitting it together into a more coherent whole. The ability to hold (at least) two diametrically opposed ideas or narratives in one’s head and, instead of simply picking one, produce a synthesis that is superior to either has been found to be a common quality among exceptional business leaders.

Business is about making quick decisions and following through in an efficient manner. The ability to keep different scenarios in your head is also important for a star football or chess player. What matters is whether they have fast reflexes and the self-confidence to pursue risky strategies.  

Increasingly, we are seeing trade policies in Washington, DC, Brussels and beyond that seek to integrate insights from different perspectives instead of simply championing the establishment narrative or replacing it wholesale with another narrative.

We are seeing a return to what prevailed prior to the War of Terror precisely because that War was lost. During the interregnum, State capacity in Trade Analysis and Negotiation was lost- which is why post-Brexit British policy has been such a dog's breakfast. America, however, is more favorably placed as it relies less on a Mandarin caste.  


Although Trump’s defeat revived optimism among some commentators about a reset on economic globalisation, the new US president Joe Biden’s approach integrates insights from multiple narratives.

which is why it is rubbish. 

Biden’s trade agenda embraces the establishment narrative’s enthusiasm for trade’s potential to generate prosperity while tempering it with a commitment to prioritising the welfare of US workers (a concern of both Right-wing and Left-wing populists), an awareness of the need for greater regulation of corporate power (including in the areas of taxation and antitrust), and a determination to compete aggressively with China economically and technologically while attempting to cooperate on global threats such as the climate crisis and pandemics.

while also supporting Democracy and running away from Afghanistan and offering rape counselling to all and sundry while weeping copiously about Beau.  

The Biden administration has continued many of Trump’s protectionist and geoeconomic trade policies, while also seeking to work with allies and reaching out to China on issues of common interest, such as the climate crisis.

Really? Then why has Biden been denouncing Xi for not showing up at Glasgow?  


Similar movements are evident in Brussels. Long a staunch proponent of the establishment narrative, the European Union has been updating its trade policy to achieve greater resilience with respect to critical goods, spearhead its own semiconductor manufacturing to protect its industrial position, and impose a carbon border adjustment mechanism to pursue greater sustainability within a global trading system. Europe is also seeking to incorporate insights from different narratives in its approach to China, with the European Commission declaring that:
China is, simultaneously, in different policy areas, a cooperation partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.

So the EU is simultaneously going East and going West and going North and jumping up and down in place. Good to know.  

If we move past either/or arguments about which narrative is right, where might more integrative thinking about economic globalisation lead us?

Alcoholism. The only people who will listen to this boring shite are people you have bought round after round of drinks for. Alternatively, you could decide to be a fox and shit on the carpet.  

Although we do not have a definite answer, our survey of competing hedgehog narratives suggests that the debate’s centre of gravity is shifting away from the old establishment consensus in at least two respects: questions of distribution, both within and between countries, are increasingly central; and noneconomic values, whether environmental, social or security-related, are increasingly qualifying or outweighing a primary focus on efficiency and growth.

There was no 'primary focus' whatsoever. There was just complacency and drift. The War on Terror was supposed to result in an Americanized globe. 'When America fucks you in the ass, Democracy is the reach around' as the old Dubya era slogan had it. Also, genuine Democracies just automatically do what is best for America coz... urm... Mom's apple pie is sooooo tasty- right?  


When it comes to distributive questions, advocates of the establishment narrative traditionally endorsed a two-step approach. The first imperative was to maximise the size of the pie by opening markets to international trade and investment.

No. The first imperative was winning the War on Terror- which Dubya promised would be extended to North Korea and Iran and so forth.  If America owned the global pie, it would get more pie even if the pie itself shrunk. 

Distributional questions about how the pie was divided were left to the domestic level.

No. Obviously, if the West became the global hegemon, then foreigners would keep buying property in the West. There would be a trickle down of capital gains. You could flip your sub-prime house and just keep flipping till you could buy your own private island somewhere sunny where dusky natives would clamor to suck you off for the price of a pretzel. 

Economic thinking in this mould focused on increasing efficiency so as to promote economic growth for the country as a whole.

I am not aware of any such thinking. There may have been a determination to trample and keep trampling the Unions but that was for political reasons- not efficiency considerations.

A growing economy meant that the winners could compensate the losers and still be better off.

That was the 'Hicks-Kaldor' theory but, crucially, it did not stipulate that any such compensation actually be paid. If it were, the incentive matrix would change.  

Whether the winners actually did compensate the losers was a matter for messy politics rather than elegant models.

No. During the course of the Seventies it was realized that only incentives matter. Mechanism design had to destroy 'countervailing' power. This wasn't always a bad thing. African American economists liked Clinton's 'work-fare'. The poor have always known about poverty traps. They want 'White Liberals' to fuck off and let them rise up by their own efforts.  


A common theme that emerges from the other narratives is that distribution is highly significant. It is not enough to increase the size of the pie; the way the pie is sliced is just as important, and sometimes more so.

By the end of the Sixties, the British Labor party discovered that voters didn't care about inequality or even what Heath would call 'the unacceptable face of Capitalism'. Most working class people were glad that Thatcher smashed the Unions. It was only the poll tax they objected to. Most of us live in horrible communities. We don't want to be charged an arm and a leg for the privilege.  

Left-wing populists zero in on the distribution of wealth and opportunity among socioeconomic classes within a particular country.

They kick up a fuss which makes Leftist parties unelectable.  

For them, growth is pointless if it is not broadly shared.

Whereas genuinely poor people only care about their own material standard of living- not how many billions Elon Musk has.  

The Right-wing populist narrative argues that distribution also matters horizontally in geographic space. It contrasts dynamic cities that move ahead with rural communities that decay when factories close.

This is a serious point. Essentially, regions with 'sunset industries' have no incentive to educate youngsters who will end up moving away to the 'sunrise' areas. Furthermore, because declining areas tend, for historical reasons, to be over-represented in legislatures, their politics will feature more 'pork barrel' type rent transfer which further vitiates political discourse. We have reached a point where it is not just the EU which might break up. There is talk of secession in America. 


Relative gains may also be important at the international level. The geoeconomic narrative notes that, although China and the US both gained from economic globalisation in absolute terms, China’s relative success in closing the gap has sharpened strategic competition between the two.

America lost the War on Terror. China's increased its influence because it quietly backed the victors. Consider China's offer to replace Camp David with Beijing as the place where the Palestinian issue will be resolved. China can do this because it always recognized Hamas. Moreover it can make a credible infrastructure offer to turn Gaza into a manufacturing hub.  

Instead of producing a win-win situation that increased peace and prosperity for all, the changing global balance of power now threatens peace and prosperity. Distributional questions, both within and among countries, are becoming central to policymaking.

I think they will be quietly dropped. People will see that the new taxes don't bring in new revenue while endangering asset prices needlessly. In other words, either the super-rich get super-richer or else the Government has to take on the down side for financial markets. The alternative is to permit a shakeout and a haircut for pensioners etc. 

Why destroy one's own invisible surplus when it is obvious there will be no visible surplus to compensate?  A better alternative would be to raid the kitties of 'Charitable' foundations. Henry VIII discovered that grabbing the Church's land was a political win-win. He became free to marry and decapitate as many women as he liked. 

We need to find ways to more openly discuss and balance different values in our pluralistic societies

while offering each other rape counselling and tenderly braiding each other's pubic hair 


Another common theme in the narratives pushing back against the free-trade orthodoxy is the focus on values other than economic efficiency, whether they be human wellbeing,

which for human foxes involves shitting on the carpet and killing chickens 

environmental protection, community cohesion or national security.

why no mention of transgender rights? Is the author a TERF? Cancel her immediately! 

The establishment narrative tends to either ignore nonmonetary values or treat them as reducible to economic measures. The challenger narratives argue that overall ‘welfare’ cannot be represented solely in economic metrics; sometimes other values are more important than wealth and might not be commensurable with money.

but only because money is not commensurable with money- unless I'm paid enough to admit otherwise 

Even if disability payments, welfare handouts and cheaper products mean that laid-off manufacturing workers are materially better off than their parents, what they have lost in pride and status will likely outweigh any material gains.

Very true! The guy who no longer has to shovel shit feels he has lost pride and status and sexual opportunities arising out of the glamor associated with his profession.  


The idea that values other than wealth maximisation matter is an essential element of the global threats discourse.

But people quit that discourse if they don't get paid or, if they weren't being paid in the first place, everybody tells them to fuck off. 

Environmentalists and their allies ask us to recast economic growth as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. They remind us that not all economic growth contributes to human wellbeing, especially when it is pursued without respect for planetary boundaries.

Not to mention respect for my anal cherry. I have frequently objected to my nephew's plans to build a skyscraper in my anus. This is because his Daddy told him that I was the biggest asshole in the Universe.  Sooner or later some rival property developer was bound to acquire this expansive piece of real estate. 

‘Today we have economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive,’ notes the economist Kate Raworth; ‘what we need are economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow.’

What we need is not more 'doughnut economics' but actual free doughnuts which are utterly delicious and which make us thinner and more sexy and which enable us to gain super-powers and live forever.  


Noneconomic values also animate the other challenger narratives.

As can the belief that the Queen Gor bless 'er is a shape shifting lizard from Planet X. 

The Right-wing populist narrative prizes the ties that bind families, communities and nations,

as opposed to prizing serial killers and guys who gouge out your eyes to copulate with your eye-sockets.  

and it values tradition, stability, loyalty and hierarchy.

As opposed to everybody taking LSD and jumping out of windows . 

Its advocates see work as important not just for providing an income but also for conferring a sense of identity, self-worth and dignity, which in turn helps in building stable families and communities.

Though inheriting lots of money would work even better.  

Even if trade encourages greater efficiency and cheaper production, it can damage the social fabric, particularly when change is rapid and highly concentrated in specific geographic regions or industrial sectors.

Sadly, countries with lovely social fabric- like pre Columbian America- get conquered and then demographic replacement occurrs. 


Sometimes economic growth is helpful in achieving these noneconomic goals; sometimes it stands in tension with achieving them.

Sometimes people nod their heads when you talk bollocks. Sometimes they tell you to fuck off back to Planet Obvious.  

Proponents of these nonestablishment narratives concur that we cannot focus solely on growing the size of the pie

coz that's what these two pedagogues are employed to do- growing pies like a fox. 

or even on dividing it fairly – we must also acknowledge that the things that we value might not form part of a single pie.

It may be part of a pile on another planet far far away 

This conclusion means that we need to find ways to more openly discuss and balance different values in our pluralistic societies.

However, once we have found those ways we realize that we are talking to a bunch of cretins. Also the one hot chick who nods her head when we talk has some really weird shit on her Facebook page.  

As the philosopher Michael Sandel explains:
Liberal neutrality flattens questions of meaning, identity, and purpose into questions of fairness.

It neglects uncorrelated asymmetries- e.g. who owns what- and preference intensity. The thing is a wank.  

It therefore misses the anger and resentment that animate the populist revolt; it lacks the moral and rhetorical and sympathetic resources to understand the cultural estrangement, even humiliation, that many working-class and middle-class voters feel; and it ignores the meritocratic hubris of elites.

Also it eats dog shit. Seriously dude. Why do you think there is so little dog poop on Ivy League Campuses. All dem Liberal dudes and dudettes are constantly combing the streets and corridors seeking for dog turds which they eagerly devour.  


There is no one view that accurately captures the virtues and vices of globalisation.

is a view that can't accurately capture anything at all- probably coz those who hold it are constantly on the prowl for tasty little pieces of doggie doodoo which they eagerly devour.  

Instead of buying into the worldview of a single hedgehog narrative,

But this is a hedgehog narrative! Why pretend that something Isiah Berlin himself dismissed as merely a cocktail party game has any epistemic or heuristic power? Why not classify everybody according to which Friends character they most resemble. (In case you are wondering- I'm totes a Rachel. So is String Theory.)

we need to develop more fox-like ways of thinking about complex issues.

Foxes don't think about complex issues. That's why they have taken over my neighborhood. I was against them till I heard that  a fox had got into my neighbor's house and shat on her Persian rug.  

This approach requires an ability to appreciate the insights of and values held by proponents of different narratives, as well as a culture of respectful debate where different tradeoffs are openly assessed.

This may be desirable on a Campus. It is not desirable at all in real life. Decisions must be made quickly and in a relatively predictable way. Endless discussion and a multi-dimensional decision space militate for military defeat and economic decline.

How should we weigh tradition against economic progress,

entirely on the basis of our own preferences and interests- preferably on the basis of best practice and the most current relevant information set.  

the wealth of the nation against the wellbeing of particular regions or groups,

which may be improved by moving out of shitholes to where smart peeps are living large 

and the importance of nationality against the value of global and cosmopolitan identities, for instance?

Sadly, you can't get a Visa to anywhere nice on the basis of your cosmopolitan identity. Nationality, on the other hand, is important. 

Debates about economic globalisation need to move past either/or battles about which narrative is right.

In which case they won't be debates. Instead everybody will be offering rape counselling to each other while tenderly braiding their pubic hair.  

The ability to integrate insights from different narratives and a willingness to explore synergies and navigate tradeoffs will become hallmarks of successful policymaking.

No it won't. It will remain the hallmark of virtue signaling circle jerks  

Efficient supply chains are no longer good enough; we need them to be secure and resilient as well.

But insecure or fragile supply chains aren't efficient.  

Climate policy must not only be economically and technologically feasible; it must also be

a fox which shits on my neighbor's Persian rug. 

equitable and inclusive.

and incessantly offering counselling to victims of epistemic self-abuse while tenderly braiding their pubic hair 

The choice is not US-China cooperation, competition or confrontation, but how to navigate all three in different domains and at different times

and different planets in different galaxies in different Universes.  


Looking at an issue through many narrative lenses requires a lot from us, both cognitively and normatively.

and in terms of our ability to eagerly devour dog turds while offering rape counselling to all and sundry while tenderly braiding their pubic hair.  

But it is also the best chance we have of devising approaches that respond to the kaleidoscopic complexity of today’s challenges.

But that chance is still zero. A pair of Law Professors aren't going to devise shit. Kaleidoscopes may seem cool when you are 5. But then you want a telescope because you think you might be able to spot aliens on Mars. It is only when you discover that no kids toy aint cheap useless shit- not matter how much 'imagination' you add to them- that you have taken your first step to adulthood. For me it was when I turned 54 and discovered I could no longer trim my own toe-nails. Sad.  

1 comment:

Global Change Musings said...

Thank you. Saves me buying the book. I broadly agree with your analysis.