In the complex networks of globalization, nodes can simultaneously become “choke points,” notes Wharton School business professor Stephen J. Kobrin. When any one of them fails, it threatens the entire network—a reality that became almost comically apparent this week when a container vessel the length of the Empire State Building wedged its bulbous nose into a bank of the Suez Canal, blocking the waterway and causing a shipping backup north to the Mediterranean, south to the Red Sea, and beyond.

Puny by comparison, the image of a digger trying to extricate the colossal vessel became an instant social media meme. More prosaically, the stranded Ever Given has become an apt symbol for the fate of globalization, the latest wave of which was spurred—somewhat ironically—by the invention of the shipping container in 1956. (The Ever Given can…

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