Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program studies the impact of nationalism on global finance in his third blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
The recent rise of populist movements in the West have rekindled a brand of nationalism that has created an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. Nationalism in this case goes beyond simple pride in country but develops into advocacy of one’s own nation above others and sees cross-border relations as a zero-sum game of win or lose. It also tends to be anti-immigrant, isolationist and even bigoted in nature and sees global trade and exchange as detrimental to the nation. Brexit and tariffs by the U.S. get the most press, but the rise of nationalist movements and autocrats is also affecting Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Italy, India, Israel, China, Russia and others. Europe’s financial institutions are especially at risk as nationalism threatens the continuance of the union and currency, but so are all standing financial relationships and markets.
This new nationalism will undoubtedly continue to reverse cooperative gains made so far and endanger financial institutions, both public and private, to efficiently and cost effectively provide services and capital across borders. The institutions of all nations may be threatened, but the severest consequences may be felt in developing nations as the West sees engagement with these countries as higher risk for less return. Engaging with them may also trigger some of the more racial elements of nationalists, as most famously represented by the American president’s reference to them as “shithole countries”.
Nationalism also endangers the internal finance of their own countries as vested interests capture government and enact laws that benefit domestic banks and entities over foreign competitors. Restrictions on the access of foreign based institutions to sell, buy, invest or lend will create multiple problems. Higher prices for goods and credit will be born primarily by the consumers of the economy. The inability to obtain investment capital or divest businesses will ripple through the entrepreneurial community and could lead to decreased business valuations. The largest corporate interests will not only survive but thrive in this environment as large banks become larger, and small competitors in all arenas are driven out.
However, these actions may sow the seeds of their own destruction. Control of the monetary system enables the nation to temper the expansion and contractions of the economy and in some cases prop up the ruling party. Just as the threat of nationalism may eventually destroy the Euro, the rise of alternative currencies and methods of value creation will spawn alternative finance networks that can also destroy the nation’s currency. A future scenario imagines these alternatives as creating systems that hasten national currencies to lose relevance and fracturing financial systems. If nationalist financial systems continue to be implemented, it will hasten that scenario as apolitical financial entities seek solutions to circumvent national politics.
Advances in global financial systems are in danger from a continued growth of nationalism. However, it will also affect global cooperation on shared problems such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and refugee crises, as well as endangering existing global political and economic relationships. An even more fragmented system global financial system will make meeting these challenges even more difficult. Just as the battle of communism versus capitalism defined the late 20th Century, globalism versus nationalism may define the 21st Century. The question becomes will governments lead that battle, or just follow the money?
© E Alex Floate 2019