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Hal Weitzman: Recent decades have seen the rise of populist nationalism and the rejection of internationalism around the world. Faced with a global pandemic, climate change, and a surge in migration, the world has failed to cooperate and coordinate. At the same time, it’s unclear how China, the most important, still-emerging superpower, fits into the international order. So are international institutions still relevant? Can they adapt and revive? And what will it take to avoid conflict and tackle global challenges? Welcome to “The Big Question,” the video series from Chicago Booth Review. I’m Hal Weitzman, and with me to discuss the issue is an expert panel.
Sir Paul Tucker is a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. He’s the author of “Unelected Power,” and his new book is “Global Discord: Values and Power in a Fractured World Order.” He was the deputy governor of the Bank of England from 2009 to 2013. Eric Posner is the Kirkland & Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law at University of Chicago. He also serves as a council for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. His books include “How Antitrust Failed Workers,” “Radical Markets,” and “The Twilight of International Human Rights.” And Anusha Chari is a professor of economics and finance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s the chair of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. Panel, welcome to “The Big Question.” Paul Tucker, let me start with you, because you’ve written this book, “Global Discord.” A lot of it is about the rise of China and how the rest of the world has reacted, should react, how we should think about that. And you outline four scenarios that might play out about how China and the West could interact. Talk us through those four scenarios and tell us what makes each of them, what might make each of them more or less likely.
Paul Tucker: Thanks, Hal. Thanks for having me here, and thanks to Eric and Anusha for joining us. I outlined four scenarios. One is a lingering status quo. The world remains with the United States as top dog, and everyone else adjusts to that. The second is a superpower struggle between essentially the United States and its satellites and China, which ends up being everywhere and in everything. Perhaps I’ll say a bit more about that. The third is a new Cold War, which is much more dangerous, involves some separation, some decoupling, proxy wars. And the final one is a new world order, where we get back to being confident, and peaceful coexistence. But because there’s a new top table of new powers, the United States, China, Europe, probably India. Maybe Indonesia—that one’s a bit further out.
Hal Weitzman: OK, so just tell us a little bit about what would make each of these more or less likely.
Paul Tucker: I think the key thing is not making mistakes. And therefore being conscious of the stakes. Let me give you an example. A number of people say, “Oh, China’s economy is a bubble. “It’s going to pop at some point.” And that may well happen at some point. And I can almost hear the voices already in the United States and Europe say, “Ah, you see, it was never really a threat.” And I think that’s nonsense actually. I think China has the critical mass in almost everything to be a major player in the world for decades and decades to come. And they will want the world to be organized a bit more to their tastes and a bit less to our tastes.
Hal Weitzman: So it sounds like you’re saying the most likely outcome is the kind of reorganized world order?
Paul Tucker: Eventually, I think so. Over a 50- to 70-year horizon. I think we will, in the near run, live with a lingering status quo in finance and monetary affairs. The dollar will remain the dominant reserve currency, but challenged eventually by the renminbi. But I think in everything else—in trade, in commerce, in climate change, in the environment—we will be between superpower struggle and new Cold War. And we’re already seeing that. When I started writing, new Cold War was nowhere to be seen. Now, as the book has launched, we’re walking into it, in a way.
Hal Weitzman: OK, and so did you . . . So it sounds like there’s not one scenario, really what you really think will happen is kind of a mix of all these scenarios and various different permutations.
Paul Tucker: I think, apart from people that are most interested in finance, I think we are going to live in a very uncomfortable world between a constant contest, superpower struggle, and a bifurcation. And I think it’s impossible to say right now whether we will go our separate ways into two separate blocks, in the way that the Soviet Union and the United States did.
Hal Weitzman: You think it’s too early to say?
Paul Tucker: It’s too early to say that.
Hal Weitzman: But that is a possibility?
Paul Tucker: Absolutely.
Hal Weitzman: So would you characterize China as a threat to international cooperation?
Paul Tucker: Yes, but it doesn’t have to be a threat that is realized. And I think we have to be very careful in responding to China not to bring about the worst. This is gonna be immensely delicate. So I thought it was good that President Biden and Leader Xi met recently in the margins of the G20, and that kind of cooled the temperature a bit, but I don’t think it will remain cool. I think it will swing between cool and hot, or fairly hot, for years and years to come.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner, let me bring you in. What’s your view on China and its implications for international order?
Eric Posner: I think Paul is right. I guess I’m inclined to think something like a superpower struggle. What that will mean for international law is that many of the existing legal institutions will either collapse, as they’re in the process of doing, or they may be modified radically to reflect a new balance of power. I think a lot of these institutions simply reflect American superpower status, in the 1990s especially. And as the US declines, relative to China, these institutions will have to change. And whether that involves serious violent conflict or not, that’s impossible to predict. It depends a lot on whether people make mistakes or not.
Hal Weitzman: Anusha Chari, let me bring you in. I mean, the international order is changing with the rise of emerging powers, like China, but also like other powers, such as India. How is that gonna remake international relations?
Anusha Chari: So I’ll answer that in a second, but I do have a question for Paul in terms of what the implications are for this superpower struggle scenario, in the sense that in light of the recent sanctions and sort of the ban on chips and chip-making technology, and the fact that the US is likely, through these actions, to be in the forefront of A.I. in terms of military software, and potentially setting China back 10 years or more. And also, in light of the fact that, someone told me this recently, that until 10 years ago, China couldn’t produce ballpoint pens without the precision required to produce a ballpoint pen without technology. The tips came from Germany and the US and Japan, I think. So in light of that, in light of sort of military power, with say the Javelins, or just even automobiles, if the US is able to take measures to sort of measurably impede China’s innovative progress, where would that leave us? So that’s sort of a question I have in my mind.
Hal Weitzman: OK, so Paul Tucker, I’ll let you answer that quickly before we turn to the other question.
Paul Tucker: I think big picture what it does is it leaves more time for other countries to catch up. More time for India and Indonesia to become powers. And I think the answer to your question is not, “Oh well, then it will all be OK.” “United States dominance will be affirmed. “China will be set back.” China’s development, including its military development, will be slowed for a while. They’ll find a solution to that, which is why I think the biggest effect will be that the longer the United States manages to take measures to, if you like, sustain something that looks like the status quo, the more time there will be for other rising powers to join an incipient new top table. Which is why I think, and one way of illustrating this, for me, the most important thing that happened for history in 2020 was not, believe it or not, COVID—even though I had COVID pretty badly, and some people, tragically, many, many people died from COVID. But I think for history, the most important thing were the border skirmishes between China and India. When Chinese troops went into India, and afterwards India was willing to revive the Pacific Quad, which had kind of fallen into obeyance. And I think we historians could easily look back at that and say, “Wow, that was not a complete turning point, “but a very important moment in the early 21st century.” And that would count, in my view, as a mistake. I think that was a mistake by China.
Hal Weitzman: OK, so Anusha Chari, let me come back to you with this question about other powers as well as China. Let’s broaden it out a little bit, because Paul Tucker talks about this top table changing. Who else is at that top table, or should be there, and how will that change the international order?
Anusha Chari: So as Paul mentions, I think India is definitely one of the countries, perhaps Brazil. And essentially, including the emerging markets, which have grown rapidly since the Washington Consensus reforms were put into place in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. And I think geographically, and in terms of geopolitics, in terms of security policy, in terms of strategy, the fact that India is the world’s largest democracy, it’s English speaking, and has had a history of conflict with China, military conflict. And as Paul mentioned, the border skirmishes, etc. I think an alliance with India as a counterpoint to China is definitely in the cards—with one caveat, which is that India is oil dependent, and came out quite, sort of in a hands-off way, saying that the Russia-Ukraine war was a European war and India was going to stay out of it and stay nonaligned. And that, I think, is fundamentally problematic, because India’s rise on the technological stage came from a symbiotic relationship with the United States. And sort of taking that sort of a position when one country actually breaches sovereign borders is problematic in an international-relation setting, in my view.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner, I wanna turn to you, because this question—we’re talking about the top table and who’s at the table. Do we need a table at all? I mean, do we need international law? Do we need multilateral institutions? Do they do anything other than serve as vehicles for countries to advance their own self-interest?
Eric Posner: Well, I do think they serve as vehicles for countries to advance their self-interest, but I also think they’re essential, and important, and unavoidable. I am a bit worried about the top table scenario though. That doesn’t strike me as appealing as I think maybe Paul thinks. It sounds like a recipe for chaos. If you have multiple large powers, it’ll be difficult for them to create institutions that they can agree with, agree to, and maintain them. Whereas if you have one big power, or maybe two, with different regional blocks, there could very well be more order in the world and more creation of public goods. But I do think there’s kind of an inherent limitation on international law, precisely because it is constantly subject to agreement and the possibility of cheating by whichever states are a part of it. So the simpler it is, the more effective it is tends to work better in bilateral relationships than in complex multilateral settings.
Hal Weitzman: And Paul Tucker, in your book, you talk about these kind of different types of relationships, different concentric circles, overlapping circles, different groups grouping. So it’s not a very organized international order, is it, that you have in mind?
Paul Tucker: I think it is easier to cooperate more deeply with those with whom we share most and fear least. And so I think of international law as operating at the, if you like, in the outer circle of where there’s peaceful coexistence, conventions that help sustain peaceful coexistence. What counts as aggression, what doesn’t, and so on, and so forth. And then as one moves inside, and different parts of the world will be moving inside, if you’d like, into different series of circles, one can have closer trade arrangements with countries that are like us, and go even further and have regulatory harmonization with countries that are really like us, which is kind of what the federal United States is, and what the confederal EU is. And I agree with Eric, by the way. I think, if looking decades ahead, where there are lots of big countries, possibly superpowers, I think international cooperation will be quite thin, for exactly the reasons that Eric says.
Hal Weitzman: When you say quite thin, do you mean thinner than now?
Paul Tucker: Yes, yes. I mean, I think one of the mistakes of the past, well, really of the 1990s and early ‘00s, was: “It’s all settled. Our way of thinking about things has prevailed, and we can have universalist organizations in which everybody has a veto, so there can never be any change,” which means the designers think that they’ve written the perfect script. Having been in public service for 33 years, that thought is so ludicrous, I’m surprised it escaped the room. But it did, and it leaves us, say, in the trade field, with high policy made by the appellate body, by judges who I think are as far out of their depth in doing that as I often think the US Supreme Court is in doing what it has to do. And you want policy made partly by bargaining amongst the great powers. And that, uncomfortably, doesn’t give everybody an equal voice. And so I think there’ll be some kind of, more or less, comfortable or uncomfortable shuffling back toward that kind of world. And in the trade field, I think that’s what we’re seeing with preferential trade agreements. God alone knows why President Trump, former President Trump, didn’t want to stay in the Pacific trade pact. That would be a . . . I’ve given one Chinese mistake. That’s a massive, massive United States mistake that you would make if you thought, “Oh, this is all gonna be easy.” The silliest thing I hear in the states over the past few years, whether in Harvard, or Washington, or wherever is, “Well, we don’t really need friends and allies. We are the great United States of America. We will be able to prevail.” That will be true only if China fails. And that’s a kind of wishful thinking. The central realist tenant is not the inevitability of this or that. It’s that wishful thinking is a grotesque mistake.
Hal Weitzman: And not just China, but the other powers that you mentioned.
Paul Tucker: Yes, absolutely, yes.
Hal Weitzman: Anusha Chari, what do you think will get us to the point where there is that remaking of the international order? Does it take a crisis to get there?
Anusha Chari: So I think that in Paul’s book he talks about effective institutions, what makes international institutions effective. And what’s interesting is that we don’t see that happening in the realm of international trade with the WTO and so on. But when it comes to international finance, I think the Bank of International Settlements in particular is really a key example of how international cooperation can take place in order to deliver financial stability, both on the supervision front, on the regulatory front, and also, as Paul mentions, that it’s been focused on preventing crisis, but how it could actually bring countries together via soft law to cooperate when it comes to crisis management. So I’m not sure it actually will take a crisis to remake the international order. I think there are already examples, but when it comes to international law, as it operates through the WTO, with these trade lawyers who do not understand necessarily what the larger geopolitical and international relations forces are at play. But the Bank of International Settlements really offers us an example of something which is soft law, and everyone seems to buy into the norms that it prescribes. And it might be because we perceive this as a global financial commons, as Paul refers to, to the mandate of the BIS.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner, is that sort of where that thin agreement might be, in the area of finance and trade, which kind of basic rules that allow us to get on with our own stuff, as opposed to things like human rights, which are much more thorny to get universal agreement on?
Eric Posner: Human-rights law is certainly very difficult for states to cooperate on, because of differences in values. But even something like trade turns out to be a lot more difficult than it might seem. And the reason is that as trade becomes deeper and broader and involves more countries, more difficult issues arise. For example, if a country, for example, has very strict worker-safety laws, or environmental laws, this might look like a form of protectionism, and you need some institution to resolve the dispute that arises. And that institution has to be both neutral, otherwise people won’t agree with it, in a kind of forward-looking sense, but sensitive to the balance of power after the fact. Because if it isn’t, countries may refuse to agree with its decisions. Even the most sophisticated judges or lawyers are not gonna be able to walk that tightrope. And so there’s this kind of natural tendency for forms of international cooperation to become deeper and then more institutionalized and more legalized. But then inevitably, because the world is a place where states are independent and have different values and interests, they become unworkable. And I think we’ve seen that with the WTO in recent years, and all kinds of other international institutions as well.
Hal Weitzman: Paul Tucker, what do you think are the most successful multilateral institutions right now?
Paul Tucker: Anusha has mentioned Basel. It was something of a surprise to me writing this book that the institution I’d been most involved with seemed to stack up fairly well against others. But actually, I . . .
Hal Weitzman: So that’s banking regulation?
Paul Tucker: That’s banking, that’s making banking and financial systems safe. But I think there’s a much more important one than that. And this is an informal institution, which is the G20. Getting people together . . . I actually think the United Nations is important, not for all the things it does, but for the physical space it provides for people to meet. So a little while before we made this recording, President Biden and Leader Xi met in the margins of the G20. So if you think about it, quite difficult for either of them not to go to the G20. Quite difficult, if they’re there, not to meet. If the G20 didn’t exist, if we still only had the G7, there would’ve had to be in a Biden-Xi bilateral, a much bigger deal in terms of arranging it, etc. And so these things can kind of reduce the frictions. One of the things I hope they discussed is introducing deescalation procedures, something that existed during the Cold War that was invaluable, and I suspect, almost, were put into play during the recent: Did a Russian missile go into Poland or not? Putin’s remarks were so calming, and I thought, “Oh, this is like all those decades after the Cold War.” Don’t trip into the big one by mistake. And Beijing has so far declined deescalation protocols, as I understand it. And it’s those kind of personal meetings happening in a kind of fairly low-profile way, if those two men can do anything in a low-profile way, that maybe opens a door to that kind of thing.
Hal Weitzman: Do you need a G20 to do that?
Paul Tucker: You need something where they’ll meet. It can be the UN once a year, G20 once a year. Something where they’ll meet, where it’s awkward for each of them not to go. “Oh, you’re abandoning the G20 then, are you?” So I think they both had to go. And then they both had to choose whether or not to meet.
Hal Weitzman: But it’s interesting that you pick a sort of informal grouping rather than a World Trade Organization or . . .
Paul Tucker: I think the problem, I think, Eric, I completely agree with Eric on the World Trade Organization. It’s . . . lots more people joined, countries joined. Everyone is given a veto. That means that no high policy development is gonna happen by veto. Therefore it’s gonna happen via judges. That’s fine as long as the world order stays completely stable. Because although you can be irritated, the stakes aren’t really, really high. And then it turns out the appellate board says that Chinese state-owned enterprises can subsidize international trade, because they’re not really public bodies. And you think, “Oh wow. You wouldn’t have wanted to delegate that choice to a judge,” in a way that became stuck, because you can’t bargain around high policy. So I think it’s not surprising. I think it’s intuitive that during a period of flux and contest that the informal institutions might have a bit more traction.
Hal Weitzman: How much of this do you think is about the West not having much of a vision for itself? The past decade has seen a kind of rebellion against globalization. You talked about Donald Trump. It’s happened with Brexit in the UK, all across Europe. In Brazil and other big economies there’s been a rejection of trade, of global rules, of playing by the rules, return to nationalism that may make it seem as though we’re in crisis when we’re not really in crisis. What do you think, Paul Tucker?
Paul Tucker: I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I think there’s something else behind what you say as well, which is becoming overfamiliar with peace, taking it for granted. This isn’t quite the narcissism of small differences that people say you find in academia, but it’s on the same page, which is people being terribly upset about things that are manageable. This country, the United States, my country can both afford to shield people harmed a bit by trade. Not everyone is harmed at all, but people need to retrain and reskill, and we are rich enough countries to do that. So sometimes politicians and others are blaming the international regime for things that they couldn’t bother to help fix. I mean, if there’s a skills problem in my country or here, that isn’t something which politicians are incapable of helping address.
Hal Weitzman: OK, and in what you say, there’s also this kind of sense that the US and other big economies need to plan for this world in which they are no longer as powerful as they have been, relatively, and they haven’t done it. And that’s what has been turned, by some people, kind of decline, that we are not going to plan for decline because again, that’s part of what the internationalists want us to do.
Paul Tucker: So I don’t think it’s . . . I’m not sure I like the word planning, but I don’t think this is planning for decline at all. I mean, the people that say, “Oh, do nothing. We’ll win.” They’re the declinists. They want to gamble. They want to gamble on, “We make no mistakes. They make all the mistakes. Everything will be lovely.” I mean, these people are reckless, and presumably don’t like the American people very much, which they would deny. I mean, if the world is a dangerous place, take it seriously. And so accepting that other people have risen, bringing hundreds of millions out of poverty, first of all, that’s good. Secondly, it affects the balance of power in the world. Well, what’s the best way of maintaining our way of life? And our way of life as something that we find valuable and as some kind of beacon. And one doesn’t have to inhale American exceptionalism to accept that there is something quite important about some of the institutions that the West has developed in politics. And I really want to stress this, and I’m not alien to Confucian values. One of the things I concluded as I wrote the book is South Korea is Confucian heritage. Japan is Confucian heritage. These are states with the rule of law, constitutionalism, democracy. In Korea, there are real changes of power there. You can be a Confucian heritage state, and with some of the institutions that happened to have developed in that part of the world. And this is something we should want to hold onto, and we won’t hold onto it by thinking, “Well, we’ll ignore it,” and that not ignoring it is somehow declinism.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner, what’s your view on how the US and the West, in general, should respond, reshape their own societies or rethink the world order?
Eric Posner: I don’t think they can reshape their own societies. I think these countries have to be prepared for changes in international institutions and their erosion. I think they probably are. I do think, though, I do want to disagree with Paul about one thing, which is that, I think, a real problem is that the public, certainly in the United States, and I think in other countries as well, it’s just . . . the public doesn’t have, I think, a kind of a consistent view about how the country should . . . how the government should approach international relations. Sometimes it feels isolationist. Sometimes it’s very aggressive. We see this in the Ukraine war, for example, where the US, which has been more and more isolationist, all of a sudden is very ambitious about not only helping the Ukrainians, but crushing the Russians. So this is just a problem for political leaders to manage. I don’t think there’s really a system. I would want to avoid that word, I think it’s kind of ad hoc agreements and tactical responses to whatever is happening in other countries. I don’t see any obvious or clear plan ahead. “Avoiding Mistakes,” one of Paul’s dictums, is maybe as good guidance as one can imagine.
Paul Tucker: And not alienating people. So Washington has occasionally had a policy of, “Oh, Europe’s all very irritating. “Let’s deal with them one state at a time.” This reached a peak with President Trump’s supporting Brexit, irrespective of my own views on Brexit. What I thought was, “Oh, that’s Beijing’s script. “Divide and rule Europe is absolutely Beijing’s script.”
Hal Weitzman: Anusha Chari?
Anusha Chari: So I have a question for both Eric and Paul, which is that Paul talks about, in his book, about this in order for the international regime, or international institutions to work and to be effective, they have to be both values and incentive compatible. And so I’m just sort of curious. I don’t see this . . . it doesn’t have to be this fight between authoritarianism and liberal democracies necessarily, but one thing that I have a hard time getting my head around is do we have some notion of inalienable human rights? And can we just sit by and say that this is an authoritarian regime with certain values, and those are compatible with their culture and their way of life? Or do we have some notion of wanting people everywhere to have certain freedoms and be free of tyranny?
Hal Weitzman: That’s a big question, but it relates very much to what we were just talking about. But the general public does have a strong sense of what it means to be a liberal democracy and liberal democracies.
Paul Tucker: I think that the most basic human rights, if you like, in positive law, the peremptory rights against genocide, slavery, and a category of other things. I think that we can’t necessarily expect everybody in the world to sign up to them. And we can’t necessarily expect to be in a position to enforce them by, God help us, sending in troops. But we can say, “Actually, these are really “important values for us.” And where we see clear violations of those norms, we should cooperate on certain things, less rather than more. So one way, the way I put it in the book is if they treat their own people like that, how would they treat us if they could? Which doesn’t mean they would, but it leads you to a judgment. One of the things that runs through the book is there are judgments to be made, and in our societies, those judgments have to be made by elected politicians. There isn’t a script, but these certain of these positive norms, I think, provide guardrails and checks that make us ask ourselves questions. Are they too dangerous for us to be overly dependent on them? And my answer to that is yes.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner?
Eric Posner: You know, I think there’s a real paradox and hazard there. It’s very difficult, I think, for the public in the United States, for example, and I also think in other countries, to just put aside their moral values. And in fact, I think a lot of the enthusiasm for Ukraine is driven by values, not by the public’s sense of what the US interest is. But one has to recognize that the more aggressively we try to advance our values around the world, the more conflict that will generate. And the conflict itself can, in turn, result in war, or it can result in states collapsing. US intervention often, at least partially motivated by our values, can lead to disasters, as it has in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries as well. So I don’t have a clear answer. The realists have always said, “Put values aside “so that we can at least maintain peace and order.” I’m not sure that’s just possible as a political matter, but I do think there’s a very strong element of the truth in the realist view.
Hal Weitzman: Anusha Chari, briefly, how would you respond to your own question?
Anusha Chari: I would think that it’s very . . . I mean, I sort of think that those core values are important, and I hear what Eric is saying about the realist point of view and just sort of thinking about interests rather than values. But my teenage daughter told me recently that the first concentration camp opened in 1933, and the Second World War didn’t start until 1939, which is when there was the aggression in Poland. So the question is, would the Allies have entered the Second World War if there hadn’t been a breach of sovereign territory? So do we think that the extermination of a people is . . . It may not be consistent with our values, but . . . And who knows if it was consistent with our interests?
Paul Tucker: So in a way, I think I’m offering a partial way through this, not a complete way through, in that I’m with Eric. I haven’t been in favor, ever, of proselytizing democracy with a gun. I quote former Prime Minister Peel in the book somewhere. It’s the middle of the 19th century, saying people need to find their own way to liberty. And I think that a lot of Washington policy has been kind of worse than clumsy in that respect. But I think where these norms matter is that, well, if you think these norms are being violated horribly, then, at the least, you shouldn’t make yourself overly dependent upon them and make yourself vulnerable. I mean, I think that still leaves is something which we should do. I don’t think there’s a scripted answer to that, but I think pragmatically there’s something pretty clear that we shouldn’t do, which is make ourselves vulnerable in relation to them. So I think the norms matter. The other thing, I mean, I would count myself as a realist. I think our values are part of our interests. The deep values that animate most basic political institutions. If we want to survive as states, this is why we want to survive. It’s because it’s worth surviving. Our way of life is. I think we need to affirm our way of political life and be confident about it, without ramming it up everybody else’s throats. And actually this comes back to . . . I was gonna say it’s a long game. It’s not a game, but it’s a long . . . History is long.
Hal Weitzman: Absolutely. So unfortunately we’re gonna have to wrap it up, but I wanted to ask each of you to make it very practical, one thing you would do. Seems that we all agree that multilateral institutions are important. What’s one thing we would do to strengthen them? Paul Tucker?
Paul Tucker: Keep on going to the G20 as long as you can.
Hal Weitzman: Just keep participating?
Paul Tucker: Don’t turn your back on it until it becomes impossible.
Hal Weitzman: OK, thank you. Eric?
Paul Tucker: And be prepared for sacrifice. So let me elaborate on that. The head of the IMF recently said, “Oh, this decoupling, it’s going to cost us “$1.5 trillion of global GDP.” Sounds like an enormous number. It’s about 1 percent or so, or maybe 1.5 percent of global GDP. So maybe six months, a bit more, of annual GDP. That’d be worth paying if it increased the prospects of peace by so many percent. Not many, actually. I mean, she said it because she thinks it’s a big number. Actually it’s a small number. It sounds big.
Hal Weitzman: Eric Posner?
Eric Posner: I guess I’m gonna resist the premise of your question. I’m not sure that the mere goal of strengthening international institutions is one that should be pursued. Some of these institutions make more sense than others. I do agree with Paul that it’s important for countries to engage in diplomacy with each other and meet with each other, but I don’t think of that as the kind of multilateral institutions that people have in mind. So my sense is that at least when it comes to matters of war and peace, institutions aren’t terribly useful. Diplomacy and threats and promises are more useful.
Paul Tucker: My turn to agree with Eric. (all laughing) Aren’t we lucky we didn’t get rid of NATO? Aren’t we just lucky, because the people that wanted to get rid of NATO today were fantastically overoptimistic.
Hal Weitzman: OK, and Anusha Chari.
Anusha Chari: So I would think giving developing countries more of a voice at whatever table it is, so that, you know, policy, international policy making doesn’t come off as just something that’s being dictated to developing countries by developed countries. So you know, we’ve got the Washington Consensus. Somebody recently proposed a Bamako Consensus, to actually have that meeting in Mali and have, you know, leaders from all over the world be able to have a voice in these conversations. So that is, that would, and more I think going back to the Basel issue, given that international law is notoriously hard to enforce, more of a focus on cooperation through soft law and institutions that promulgate that.
Hal Weitzman: OK. Well, thank you very much. Unfortunately, our time here is up. My thanks to our panel, Paul Tucker, Eric Posner, and Anusha Chari. For more research, analysis, and commentary, visit us online at chicagobooth.edu/review and join us again next time for another “The Big Question.” Goodbye. (gentle music)