July 22, 2012
We are now within weeks of departing San Francisco for London, where I will enter the Masters program at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the subject: Globalisation and Development. In anticipation of the program, I have read a number of the better recommended books on the subject of globalisation. These readings and reflections have changed my preconceived views on the subject–already–and I haven’t even begun the course yet.
I suppose the overview is that I have been moved to a more complex understanding and a realization that the free market alone (unmanaged globalisation) will not best benefit the world. Of course, if we had only one choice–globalisation or no globalisation, then we should definitely be in favor of continued globalisation. It has brought hundreds of millions out of poverty in China, India, and elsewhere in the world, not to mention all the benefits to those not impoverished. And, we certainly do not have the choice of not having globalization anyway, because it is a powerful force driven by wealth creation opportunities of a massive nature.
Yes, we’d be far worse off without it.
Fortunately, we don’t have this choice to make. We don’t have the opportunity to choose not to have globalisation, although there are certainly many movements toward protectionism all over the developed world. For the most these are disparate and fragmented initiatives on behalf of industry groups in various developed nations, pursued by well funded lobbyists and presented to sympathetic members of government who are sensitive to the influence (monetary and political) of the industries and companies funding lobbying for those benefits. They usually manage to eventually end up persuading trade conference representatives of their countries to support manufactured and distorted selfish arguments to serve only their best interests, with no eye toward the better good of all on a worldwide basis. And, if fact, these efforts often do not even benefit the greater good of the country making such arguments, as in the case of US agricultural subsidies to cotton producers, resulting in higher than average incomes for those 25,000 cotton farmers in the US, and higher costs of cotton to US consumers, higher taxes to US taxpayers, and continued poverty for Sub Saharan Africans who could produce cotton well below our costs in the US. There are thousands of other such narrow and selfish legal and trade advantages throughout this country and the rest of the developed world.
But, these are not going to prevent the continuation of the grand worldwide expansion of globalisation, because there is a lot of money to be made from globalisation and therefore a lot of momentum behind it.
So, we need to understand that our opportunity is to try to make it work for more people, not just for the wealthy 1% of the world and not just for the developed nations. It needs to work for the underprivileged of the world as well, and especially for the impoverished of the world.
Why, some might argue, should we concern ourselves about those people–the ones in countries so far from us that we have no connection with them, no understanding of them, and we can’t be certain they’re not of some persuasion that is in fact, determined to do us in, if only they get the chance? And, don’t we have enough problems just concerning ourselves with our country, and defending only our citizens against any losses to citizens of other countries?
There are three main reasons we need to concern ourselves with those who are not benefitting from globalization: (1) we have a moral obligation; (2) if we don’t, we may thereby contribute to the unrest of the world, and to the hatred of the haves, and this could well engender a degree of terrorism and war risk that is dangerous to us; (3) the greatest long term wealth and lifestyle benefits of globalisation are going to be realized through helping the rest of the developing world rise to a level of income, such as to enable them to buy our products and makes us wealthier too. It’s not a zero sum game–improved opportunity, income, and wealth for the underprivileged does not result in less for the advantaged. In the long term, it means more for all.