Hearts of glass

In his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama argued that the fall of the Berlin Wall just a few years beforehand marked the definitive end point of any rivals to ‘enlightened’ Western liberal democracy. Eight years later, Robert Shiller in his analysis of 2000 era stock markets, Irrational Exuberance, cited widespread investor pride at the apparent triumph of free market western capitalism against all comers as one of the defining factors behind stretched millennial era stock valuations. Both of those narratives look somewhat ridiculous now. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, US second quarter GDP in 2020 fell by an annualised 32.9 percent. To put that figure into context, that is broadly the equivalent of the first three years’ worth of the Great Depression accelerated into just three months. That slowdown is almost entirely a real world reflection of deliberate government action – if you can even call it that. This correspondent normally finds little common ground with most writers at The Financial Times, but it is difficult to argue with their US editor, Edward Luce, when he suggests that

We are witnessing the biggest governance failure in modern US history.

Hearts of glass