In today’s Los Angeles Times, Niall Ferguson defends globalization, fearing that there are certain moves in politics and media that threaten its end. He observes the furore over illegal Mexican aliens in the United States and steps to recognize them, and less recently, the acquisition that was colloquially known as the Dubai Ports’ Deal.
The last time globalization died, some historians say, it was an American backlash that killed it. A century ago, the world economy was in many ways just as integrated as it is today. Migration rates were comparably high, as was trade in relation to output. Capital ﬂows today are bigger in relative terms, but a century ago they were more evenly distributed between rich and poor countries. After 1914, however, globalization fell apart, and by the 1930s the world economy had fragmented—with disastrous consequences for growth and employment.
The great disruption caused by World War I certainly did a large part of the damage, sinking thousands of tons of merchant shipping and severing international telegraph cables. Even before war came, however, globalization was already dying the death of a thousand legislative cuts. As early as 1882, the United States had introduced the Chinese Exclusion Act, the ﬁrst of a series of measures designed to restrict immigration to white Europeans. Quotas for other ethnic groups were introduced between the wars so that by the mid1930s, the ﬂow of new immigrants to the U.S. had all but dried up.
Through my readings, I have seen that there is a connection between the freedom of capital and the movement of people, and economic prosperity. In the 1930s, the Depression had seen to a dangerous economic course. By the end of World War II, economists like Keynes had looked at ways that the state could create progress, to prevent some of the errors of the past.
By the 1960s through to the 1980s, the managers who held more sway in western economies began to abandon Keynes in favour of monetarism—a movement which gave rise to the corporate raiders of late-1960s Britain (such as Slater Walker) and Rogernomics in New Zealand.
Some of the monetarists had a point: there were inefﬁcient state enterprises that needed reform, but in proclaiming their new edict they threw the baby out with the bath water. The state was to be rolled back, with subsequent effect on branding. Private enterprise began taking on the trappings of state, with their strategies affecting the welfare of everyday people (to wit, Wal-mart); while the state began looking more commercial, the few state enterprises needing to compete in a commercial reality.
I am not sure if we have achieved a sense of balance. Those who advocate restrictions on large corporations like Wal-mart, which has been mistreating some of its workers, could also be throwing the baby out with the bath water. The spectre of protectionism, the severing of global ties, the closing of borders, are perilous at best as they restrict the freedom of movement of people, and of their capital. Diasporas sending money back to the old country creating some sense of global equity, or even plain old learning found through international travel, will suffer. How do we cast out the bad, and retain the good, in globalization?
The great sin is not so much the politics behind policies, but the removal of human emotion from them. Humanity wishes to be free, happy, productive, helpful: they are not units of production.
We are at a stage where globalization is real—in that global networks such as the internet, and these blogs, link people of all creeds and cultures together. This is still largely slanted toward richer nations, as my maps of the 9th inst. and February 1 show, but the positive forces are there.
Working against these, as some of the moves that Mr Ferguson covers and worries about, is working against the basic desire of people: to have a united world, free from conﬂict. The fact politicians spend millions of taxpayers’ money to talk to other politicians suggests that dialogue is the way forward. This also underpins the job of all journalists. This is an age where that level of internationalism in dialogue is available to more people than ever.
So rather than ﬁght policy against policy, or even nation against nation, we all should ask ourselves honestly, especially those of us in positions of inﬂuence: do our actions beneﬁt that global desire of humankind?
It is a simple question, but obviously not one that is asked often enough, when Wal-mart refuses to sign a pledge to pay maternity leave to Bangladeshi workers—even though it’s the law. Or when politicians talk about restricting access to immigrants, although in Europe, as Mr Ferguson points out, they are needed to help fund an ageing population.
There is nothing wrong with creating capitalist global markets and global dialogue, nor is there anything wrong with allowing the state to participate in the market. There is only something wrong when the considerations of humanity are divorced from them.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization | economics | humanity | emotion | global | society | world | internationalism | global economy | humankind | corporations | CSR | social responsibility | globalism | freedom Posted by Jack Yan, 06:11
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