Martin Wolf is probably the most respected commentator on the global economy in any mainstream newspaper in the English language, and his regular Financial Times columns are a must-read for anyone trying to get to grips with the complicated reality of markets and the politics and policies that shape them. A full-length book by Wolf on a subject as big as the viability of democratic capitalism in the midst of a ‘polycrisis’ caused by multiple challenges is therefore a major event in itself. As an avid reader of his columns, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this book.
Wolf’s broad philosophy could be described as pessimistic liberalism. As one would expect from a senior journalist at the Financial Times, he is a believer in the power of markets, when properly regulated, to do good. It is a sign of the times, and of the unusual climate of British politics at this juncture, that he increasingly sounds like an enraged radical ready to man the barricades. He states in the prologue, ‘My opinions have altered as the world has unfolded.’ What has happened to our world to push Wolf into such a deeply oppositional, almost antagonistic attitude to our current institutions?
One cause derives from his background, which he describes in the prologue. His parents both ended up in Britain after fleeing the Nazis. Their experiences have made Wolf particularly sensitive to the disturbing lurch to extremism that we are observing across the rich democracies. Wolf recognises that the