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Financial Crisis and War

In 1907, a major financial crisis emanating from the US affected the rest of the world, demonstrating the fragility of the entire international financial system – and ultimately contributing to the outbreak of World War I. The response to the current financial crisis is replaying a similar dynamic.

PRINCETON – The approach of the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 has jolted politicians and commentators worried by the fragility of current global political and economic arrangements. Indeed, Luxembourg’s prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently argued that Europe’s growing north-south polarization has set the continent back by a century.

The lessons of 1914 are about more than simply the dangers of national animosities. The origins of the Great War include a fascinating precedent concerning how financial globalization can become the equivalent of a national arms race, thereby increasing the vulnerability of the international order.

In 1907, a major financial crisis emanating from the United States affected the rest of the world and demonstrated the fragility of the entire international financial system. The response to the current financial crisis is replaying a similar dynamic.

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    A Global Economy Without a Cushion

    Stephen S. Roach

    From 1990 to 2008, annual growth in world trade was fully 82% faster than world GDP growth. Now, however, reflecting the unusually sharp post-crisis slowdown in global trade growth, this cushion has shrunk dramatically, to just 13% over the 2010-19 period, leaving the world economy more vulnerable to all-too-frequent shocks.

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