Episode Three: The New Rules of the Game
With communism discredited, more and more nations harness their
fortunes to the global free-market. China, Southeast Asia, India,
Eastern Europe and Latin America all compete to attract the developed
world’s investment capital, and tariff barriers fall. In the United
States Republican and Democratic administrations both embrace
unfettered globalization over the objections of organized labor.
But as new technology and ideas drive profound economic change,
unforeseen events unfold. A Mexican economic meltdown sends the
Clinton administration scrambling. Internet-linked financial markets,
unrestricted capital flows, and floating currencies drive levels of
speculative investment that dwarf trade in actual goods and services.
Fueled by electronic capital and a global workforce ready to adapt,
entrepreneurs create multinational corporations with valuations
greater than entire national economies.
When huge pension funds go hunting higher returns in emerging markets,
enterprise flourishes where poverty once ruled, but risk grows, too.
In Thailand the huge reservoir of available capital proves first a
blessing, then a curse. Soon all Asia is engulfed in an economic
crisis, and financial contagion spreads throughout the world, until
Wall Street itself is threatened. A single global market is now the
central economic reality. As the force of its effects is felt, popular
unease grows. Is the system just too complex to be controlled, or is
it an insiders’ game played at outsiders’ expense? New centers of
opposition to globalization form and the debate turns violent over who
will rewrite the rules.
Yet prosperity continues to spread with the expansion of trade, even
as the gulf widens further between rich and poor. Imbalances too
dangerous for the system to ignore now drive its stakeholders to
devise new means to include the dispossessed lest, once again,
terrorism and war destroy the stability of a deeply interconnected