Should the voices of anti-globalization be heeded?

I read an article in Newsweek the other day which talks about how the current economic crisis, combined with the erosion of the West’s predominance, coupled with apocalyptic warnings of climate change, all mesh to give rise to new ideas in Europe calling for a check on rapid globalization and unlimited economic growth.

No doubt there is truth in the fact that we should not go back to the past, where economic growth was financed by unsustainable and fragile asset bubbles, spikes in oil and food prices and the relentless pursuit of GDP served as the sole indicator of development. Interestingly, these ideas are not new as they have been espoused by as early as Thomas Malthus in 1798 (who claimed that rising populations would outstrip food production) to as recent as the Club of Rome in 1972 (who warned that the world would start running out of resources in the 1980s). However, such predictions do not take into enough account technical innovation, environmental regulation, greater efficiency and behavioral change. Indeed, a ‘no-growth’ scenario would be worse as a society that gives up on economic growth invites nasty fights over the distribution of limited resources and paves the way for intolerance and populism. That economic growth is not everything should be obvious to us by now. But equally important is the correlation between prosperity and the quality of life, including health, longevity and the freedom to pursue happiness.

What then should the right approach be? Not to reject or sabotage globalization, but instead to spend our energy coming up with the right policies that would foster equitable growth and mitigate the negative consequences of globalization.

Stop the waves!

Reading about this reminds me of another historical allusion. King Canute was a Danish King of England, and most remembered for his futile attempt to stop the waves. Legend has it that he brought his throne to the edge of the seashore, and there, he commanded the waves to roll back. Whether he did that out of vanity or to show his courtiers the limitations of human power, to me, this is an apt image of our futility in trying to roll back the tide of globalization. What we need to do is not to attempt to resist globalization, but to ensure that these waves do not overwhelm our sense of social justice and morality.

How you can use this blog entry:

Paper 1 (Globalization, Economics, Poverty)

Paper 2 (AQ)

Language tips:

Notice how the counter-argument and the ‘counter-counter-argument is done in this blog entry.

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~ by irwin on May 8, 2010.

One Response to “Should the voices of anti-globalization be heeded?”

  1. A comment by Fred T extracted from my GP Blog:

    Victor Hugo had a good quote – nothing can withstand an idea whose time has come. Globalization can be said to be one such idea. In fact, it is not only an idea, or a way of organizing our lives and economies, it is also a result of the myriad technological advances that have been taking place for centuries. After all, the British Empire had caught on to “globalization” way before we had the internet.

    Globalization has brought about some good. Some 3rd world countries have been able to develop rapidly because of the availability of global resources and markets. China and India are good examples. However, globalization also has its costs, and not all of it in economic terms. Globalization has brought about new transnational challenges.

    Disease sometimes spread in uncontrollable ways because of the ease of global travel. SARS and H1N1 are good reminders of the threats we face. The ban on air travel in the US after Sep 11th apparently delayed the onset of winter flu in North America by a couple of weeks. Terrorism is a much bigger problem today because of the ability to propagate messages globally with modern forms of communications. Hence, Indonesians on the streets of Jakarta can be mobilized onto the streets by a small event that takes place on the streets of Gaza. Furthermore, new media like the internet is not only persistent (the information is always on the website 24/7, unlike a TV programme that is only viewed when aired), it is also pervasive.

    Coping with the effects of globalization requires inter-state cooperation. However, this is difficult because states act according to their own national interests, and not according to the greater global public good. We are in an unfortunate situation that while we live in a global village, we are not really thinking and acting like global citizens. In the end, this could prove to be the central challenge to coming up with “the right policies that would foster equitable growth and mitigate the negative consequences of globalization.”

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