The Future of the Liberal Trading Order

Vinod K, Aggarwal

The Post-Cold War Order, 1993

Predicting the future is risky business, generally best left to sorcerers and fortune-tellers who can adapt their predictions to the needs of their clients. Some political scientists and economists, however, have not been deterred from such efforts — particularly those engaged in policy work. Pressed by the needs of their clients, they too appear to be similarly tempted to suitably modify their predictions. To make my own position clear, I would not wish to argue that developing detailed predictions is in itself not a worthwhile activity: as one’s scientific understanding of a phenomenon increases, prediction should be at least one of the tests of theoretical adequacy. But whether made by political scientists or economists, this paper argues that many predictions about the future of the trading order simply do not have an adequate theoretical or logical foundation. The central objective of this paper is to outline a framework to analyse the relationship between governance structures and transactions, in an attempt to assess predictive efforts. As a secondary objective, it makes some contingent predictions about the future of the trading order, keeping in mind the quite likely possibility of economic or political shocks that can undermine such predictive efforts.

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