THE POST-2008 GLOBAL ORDER
The rising tide of global populism today is a direct result of the Great Recession
MUCH has been written in the international media about events exactly 10 years ago with a global financial crisis (which, having originated in the West, was nevertheless curiously never referred to as the “Western” financial crisis) that led to the Great Recession.
The causes, scary implications and consequences are all well documented and require no repetition here.
It was a near-death experience for the American-led world of global finance, the likes of which we have never witnessed since the end of World War Two.
The consequences, not least politically, are still reverberating throughout the world.
It is no hyperbole to say that this may one day come to be remembered as the proximate point when the rest of the world, and most notably China, lost its innocence about the long-perceived infallibility of Western ideas on how societies organise themselves economically and politically.
As Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who headed the International Monetary Fund at the height of the 2008 financial meltdown, now noted, the rising tide of global populism today, including in the once-thought-to-be mature democracies of the West, is a direct result of that crisis.
What has particularly struck me is how John Authers, writing in the Financial Times, owned up to surprising self-censorship a decade ago amid the crisis.
As Authers wrote: “The moment came on Sept 17, 2008, two days after Lehman declared bankruptcy.
“That Wednesday was, for me, the scariest day of the crisis, when world finance came closest to all-out collapse. But I did not write as much.”
Authers was then in New York City, ground zero of the brewing crisis. “There was a bank run happening, in New York’s financial district. The people panicking were the Wall Streeters who best understood what was going on.
“All I needed was to get a photographer to take a few shots of the well-dressed bankers queueing for their money….”
“Such a story on the FT’s front page might have been enough to push the system over the edge. Our readers went unwarned, and the system went without that final prod into panic.”
Authers justified his partly selfinterested non-action then as akin to the right to free speech not including the right to shout fire in a crowded cinema.
A fire, of course, might have been started not by a human hand but it is hard to imagine a financial firestorm not having being sparked by one.
Popular resentment about the continued lack of full accountability for whoever caused the financial crisis and with the media that decided that the greater public interest lay in such media not reporting rather than reporting what was happening, is thus still coursing through the Western body politic 10 years hence.