Her familiarity with the dismal science [of economic stagnation] radiates through her provocative new work, Edge of Chaos, as she argues compellingly that the global failure to achieve sustained, inclusive growth underpins the rampant political turmoil. Liberal democracies could probably endure either slow growth or rising inequality, she says. But when the two collide, as they have in many mature economies, the chemical reaction can be fierce ... However, rather than question capitalism and globalization, Moyo mounts a vigorous and welcome defense of both. She argues that they are the most likely avenues to high economic growth, which she pronounces to be the holy grail ... But then she goes on to climb a familiar wall by expressing worry about robots and automation when, in fact, significantly greater productivity can occur only by supplementing workers with machines ... She muddles the concept of change versus rate of change, declaring global productivity to be on the decline, though what she means is that the rate of growth of global productivity has been waning ... These and other villains dance across her stage before Moyo unveils her proposed fixes, all designed to reform the American political system so that capitalism can flourish.
If you overlook the hyperbole, Ms. Moyo’s diagnosis is worth pondering. The anti-immigration backlash in Europe and the United States, not to mention Donald Trump’s trade sparring and protectionist leanings, are unsettling. But what she offers up as a solution—she calls it her Blueprint for a New Democracy—sounds a little dodgy as well. To her credit, she offers the arguments both for and against her 10 reform proposals. Most of the proposals focus on shoring up America's democratic functions, but they could easily apply, in broad principle, elsewhere ... Edge of Chaos ends up being rather conventional for a book with such a lurid title. It is studded with factoids and research findings that readers will no doubt find interesting, but Ms. Moyo could have been more discriminating, and skeptical, in some of her choices. The best part is her warning that the free-market capitalism that has lifted millions of people out of poverty in the past half-century may be facing severe tests. That’s a message that Americans should always heed.
She’s right that a stagnant economy is dangerous to civil liberty ... As is often the case, though, Moyo’s solutions aren’t as persuasive as her diagnosis. If you think about it, even devoted democrats draw the line somewhere on ballot box access: The right to vote is generally denied to prisoners, children, noncitizens, and people judged mentally incompetent. But imagine the envy and anger that would be unleashed if voting power were based on profession or education ... In the end, Moyo comes across as a well-meaning meritocrat. Democracy has its flaws, all right, but elitism isn’t the way to cure them.