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Burning Bridges

Unease Amongst Allies and Trading Partners

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I just returned from my annual meeting with 27 economists, representing every continent and nearly as many countries. The meeting goes by Chatham House Rules, which means I can’t quote anyone directly, but can provide my take of our collective findings.

I found myself listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” at the end of each day, yearning to repair instead of burn the bridges that connect us. We collectively embraced the benefits of free trade without properly retraining or compensating those who it hurt. Large swaths of the population, most notably in the West, were left behind. They suffered a loss and are understandably angry. A rising tide did not lift all boats. We also lamented the rise of populist leaders, the attack on legal institutions, and the corruption that tend to accompany those shifts. History is littered with examples of the destructive economic policies that such leaders implement.

Read Diane Swonk's full July Economic Currents.

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