Peterson Institute Releases New Book on the Moral Conflicts of Globalization

About the Author

Steven R. Weisman is vice president for publications and communications at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He previously served as a correspondent, editor, and editorial board member at the New York Times, based in New York, Washington, New Delhi, and Tokyo. His book The Great Tax Wars: How the Income Tax Transformed the Nation received the Sidney Hillman Award in 2003. He is editor of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary, a Washington Post bestseller listed by the Times as one of its best books of 2010.

WASHINGTON—The Peterson Institute for International Economics is releasing a new book today, The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization, which argues that there is a moral case for globalization but that the principles of liberty, justice, virtue, and loyalty to one's own community often come into conflict with each other when economies adapt to globalization. Written by Steven R. Weisman, vice president for publications and communications at the Institute, the book analyzes the moral dilemmas facing policymakers in an economically intertwined world.

In particular, Weisman explores the history of "moral hazard" with a review of what writers through the ages have said about sin and debt—both highly topical and an illustration of the kind of principled tradeoffs he generally poses. His book analyzes contemporary dilemmas over moral hazard in the East Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, government bailouts of financial institutions in 2008–09, the debate in the United States over welfare, and the debate in Europe over Greek debt. Weisman devotes the last third of the book to a discussion of loyalty as it relates to the costs and benefits of trade and international investment. He argues that while globalization does leave some people worse off absent policy compensation, notably less skilled workers in advanced economies, it has also reduced poverty on an unprecedented scale and delivered higher standards of living throughout the world, raising the moral considerations of how to manage this tradeoff.

"As the major economies recover from their worst recessions in 75 years, concerns about the costs of unfettered capitalism and globalization understandably have gained political traction," says Adam S. Posen, president of the Institute. "Steve blends economics, moral philosophy, history, and politics to explain the passionate disagreements spawned by a globally integrated economy, and in so doing goes beyond the necessary but insufficient pure economic cost-benefit analysis. The Institute has grappled repeatedly in recent years with how to make the benefits of globalization more inclusive but also more politically sustainable. Steve's book is a creative and deeply empathetic contribution to that effort."

The Institute gratefully acknowledges that The Great Tradeoff has been published with the generous support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which has also supported other efforts in this area, including an earlier conference at the Institute, along with a collected volume entitled Ethics and Globalization: The Tradeoffs Underlying our Policy Choices. "We appreciate the unique opportunity that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation provided to the Peterson Institute to do long-term interdisciplinary work on ethics and globalization," says Posen, "and we are excited to release Weisman's The Great Tradeoff as a highly accessible and publicly oriented product of that mutual commitment."

The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Age of Globalization
Steven R. Weisman
ISBN paper 978-0-88132-695-6
January 2016 | 260 pp. | $25.95


About PIIE

The Peterson Institute for International Economics is a private nonpartisan, nonprofit institution for rigorous, intellectually open, and in-depth study and discussion of international economic policy. Its purpose is to identify and analyze important issues to make globalization beneficial and sustainable for the people of the United States and the world, and then to develop and communicate practical new approaches for dealing with them. Its work is funded by a highly diverse group of philanthropic foundations, private corporations, and interested individuals, as well as by income on its capital fund. About 35 percent of the Institute's resources in its latest fiscal year were provided by contributors from outside the United States. View a list of all financial supporters for the preceding four years.

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