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This week’s covers | May 11th 2024 Edition

WE HAD TWO covers this week. In most of our editions, we wrote about the breakdown of the economic order. At first glance, the world economy looks reassuringly resilient, yet we fear that it is flirting with collapse. A worrying number of triggers could set off a descent into anarchy, where might is right and war is once again the resort of great powers. Even if it never comes to conflict, the degradation of the economy could be fast and brutal.

Our working metaphor for this breakdown in norms had been “entropy”, a measure of randomness that crops up in the study of thermodynamics. An image of a smashed globe was peak randomness, we thought.
But our science-minded colleagues objected that nobody understands entropy, and suggested that a better term for a seemingly steady state vulnerable to sudden collapse would be “metastable equilibrium”. A former science editor even went so far as to illustrate the mechanics with a sketch.
Oh dear. The Economist was rapidly heading down a rabbit hole better suited to Nature or Science. Time to reverse ferret.

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