The Great War and Global Governance

This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of WWI – a devastating war, rooted partly in inadequately robust global-governance systems. Today, efforts to quantify the tradeoff between efficiency and robustness should play a larger role in addressing key issues, including financial reform and climate-change policy.

ISTANBUL – This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I – and, arguably, the worst year in human history. A century later, is the world any safer?

Not only did WWI leave almost 40 million people dead; it can be viewed as a precursor to World War II. After all, had Germany’s hyperinflation of the 1920’s – a direct result of the war – been avoided, Hitler may well never have risen to power, and WWII might not have occurred. Instead, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, set in motion a chain of bloodletting that killed nearly 100 million people by 1945 and caused human suffering on a previously unimaginable scale.

Of course, generations of historians have meticulously researched the origins of the world wars and written elegantly about their conclusions. That history should spur today’s economists and policymakers to reflect on the difficult trade-off between efficiency and robustness when it comes to global governance.

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