MILAN – In the summer, as life slows down, there is space to reflect on fundamental issues. One of the key puzzles occupying my mind of late is the disconnect between widespread political dysfunction and relatively strong economic and financial-market performance.
Today, the world’s major economies are experiencing a steady recovery, despite the occasional setback. To be sure, economic performance is far from reaching its full potential: depending on where one looks, one can find output gaps, excess leverage, fragile balance sheets, under-investment, and unfunded longer-term non-debt liabilities. Still, financial markets show no signs of convulsion, even as monetary stimulus is gradually withdrawn.
Yet, at the same time, political conditions seem to be deteriorating. Polarization has intensified, owing partly to growing resistance to globalization and the unbalanced growth patterns that have resulted from it. In the United States, for example, the Pew Research Center reports that people not only disagree vehemently with their compatriots on the other side of the aisle; they also don’t like or respect them.
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