indicatorThe Twenty-Four

The end of “the end of history?”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is suggesting a major change of course for how Canada approaches global trade

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 25 October 2022 2 min read

Imagine you just got married and you say to yourself: “That’s the end of my dating life. I found a spouse I love who shares my values and habits!”

Fast forward thirty years or so and it looks like your marriage is pretty much over, so you say to yourself: “That’s the end of the end of my dating life. I need to get back out there!”

This is kind of what’s happening with the global economy.

In a recent speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland referred to the end of "the end of history."

It sounds weird, but it makes more sense when you realize that "the end of history" is not used to mean "the end of human beings doing stuff," but to a period in which the big ideological and economic conflicts that have dominated human history come to an end with the victory of liberal democracy.

The argument was popularized by American political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man.” According to Fukuyama, history is an evolutionary process that ended when the West defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. In a nutshell, democracy (and market-based economics) won—and not just for the moment, but permanently.

Whether you agree or disagree with Fukuyama’s argument, at least parts of it gel with the process of globalization that has occurred over the last three decades. Countries like China and Russia “opened up,” global trade and capital flows between countries increased, the constant threat of nuclear annihilation dissipated and we became a more interdependent world.

According to Minister Freeland, and she is not alone in this, things have changed. It turns out that history as a process of conflict between big ideas is not over after all with autocracies like China and Russia on a very different path from Canada and our democratic allies. The era of globalization, Freeland argues, officially ended on February 24, 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine.

In what has been dubbed the “The Freeland Doctrine,” the Minister goes on to argue that Canada and other democracies should respond to the end of globalization with a new focus on trade among ourselves. The potential economic ramifications of this are enormous, especially for a country as dependent on exports as Canada. China, for example, is our second largest customer.

For better or worse, if the global economic marriage ends, it will be a messy divorce.

Answer to the previous trivia question: As of the 2021 Census, there were 1.6 million private dwellings in Alberta.

Today’s trivia question: When did the Berlin Wall fall?

China is Alberta's second largest customer after the United States

China is Alberta's second largest customer after the United States

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