Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dangers of globalization from 'The Commanding Heights"

Jagdish Bhagwati's upbeat speech on free trade (and by extension globalization) seems to be in contrast to the current situation. The last chapter of The Commanding Heights seemed appropriate to consider at this point:

From pages 408-415:
Five tests, in particular, are likely to be decisive in shaping people's thinking and judgment about the market. The outcome of these tests will over time provide the signposts to the future frontier betweens state and market - and the character of the battle over globalization.
1. Delivering the Goods?
... Will market economies deliver on what they promise in terms of measurable economic goods: growth, higher standards of living, better-quality services and jobs? After all, it was the failure of markets and the loss of confidence in their capaciy that led to governments' assuming a much more assertive role in economic management. If, ..., privatization, deregulation, and the opening up of economies to competition are seen as job-destroying rather than job-creating, market policies will surely be subject to continuing attack and constant revision. ...
2. Ensuring Fairness?
... For many, the market system will be evaluated not only by its economic success but also by the way the system will be evaluated not only by its economic success but also by the way in which that success is distributed. ... Is the system just and fair? Or does it disproportionately benefit the rich and the avaricious at the expense of hardworking people of more moderate circumstance? ...What a market advocate describes as "incentives" is translated into "greed" in the vocabulary of the market critic. Conspicuous consumption and the flaunting of wealth weigh the scales toward "greed" and thus accentuate the criticism of inequality. ...
3. Securing the Enviroment?
... The most pressing environmental issues are those that affect the 5 billion people in the rest of the world. A large number of these countries start from low levels of standards and practice - and management. Their environments are under stress because of poverty ...
4. Coping with Demographics?
Population trends will challenge the performance of market economies. ... Those [developing countries] confront an enormous swelling in the younger age groups and the difficult tasks of generating jobs and increasing per capita income. The surge in population has created a combustible mixture of idleness, poverty, disillusionment, and a bitterness that can be a tremendous source of political and economic instability that spills over borders.
5. Upholding Identify?
... But it [participation in the global economy] also challenges the values and identities of national and regional cultures, including ethnic and religious identities. It can undermine a taditional and comforting sense of security ...

... The backlash against globalization is premised exactly on the idea that there is something seriously wrong with the workings of the global marketplace, and that is where the focus of the debate is. On one side are those who say, though often with more emotion than data, that a globalized economy is fundamentally unfair and immoral and that the markets and capitalism are the economy. On the other are those who say that the priority is to develop the new and appropriate rules for the new world that will enhance and broaden the benefits while dealing with the downsides. (pg. 417)

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