Enjoy it while it lasts: at the New York Stock Exchange, December 2017.
ANDREW KELLY / REUTERS

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States set about building a global, rules-based economic order. At the heart of that order, it put the liberal values of free trade and the rule of law. Over the next seven decades, the order, backed by U.S. power and bolstered by its growing legitimacy among other countries, prevented most economic disputes from escalating into mutually destructive trade wars, let alone military conflict. That allowed even the smallest and poorest countries to develop their social and economic potential without having to worry about predation by stronger neighbors. By taking much of the fear out of the global economy, the U.S.-led order allowed market decisions to be driven by business, not bullying.

Today, that order is under threat. U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected the idea that the world’s economies all benefit when they play by the

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