In the passionate debate that currently rages over globalization, critics blame it for a host of ills afflicting poorer nations. Now Bhagwati, the ...Show synopsisIn the passionate debate that currently rages over globalization, critics blame it for a host of ills afflicting poorer nations. Now Bhagwati, the internationally renowned economist, takes on the critics, revealing that globalization can be a powerful force for social good.Hide synopsis
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Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor at Columbia University and economist of considerable renown, addresses the more important issues with regard to globalization. First off, beliefs in various myths, propaganda, and gut-feelings in most who are anti-globalists are found to be untrue. Many anti-globalists are actually wearing other hats that only add to their prejudices. These are often in the form of anti-capitalism, anti-corporate establishments, and - mostly in foreign countries - anti-American sentiments. Moreover on close examination, their arguments are found to be in error in many ways.
Those arguments are with regard to cheap foreign labor, particularly the low wages paid to women workers. Child labor abuses and what to do about them are also the object of heated criticism. Other arguments concern competitiveness in the market place with a plea for protectionism for home products. Some economists are in disagreement about capital flow and how it should be handled as globalization continues to spread. Many of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are altruistically concerned about the potential or real social changes, which tend to blot out native cultures in the face of importation of life-styles of multinationals. Others are critical of multinationals for exploiting cheap labor from among unskilled workers available to them. Multinationals do nothing, they say, to improve the lot of locals through building schools, for example, or hospitals, or a host of other possibilities. Overall, they feel that people in the poor countries are being taken advantage of without regard to their human rights.
The fact is, though, that globalization is somewhat of a win-win situation. As for labor costs, the wage of a multinational worker is, in most cases, somewhat higher than for comparable employment in the area of location. What is more, the corporations provide opportunities that help solve unemployment problems; and they add to the economy in ways that produces growth and improves the standard of living. As for child labor, the majority of child laborers work in industry that is contained within the country itself. Abuses are very uncommon among multinational companies because they can and do suffer immediate retribution on the world market in the form of boycotting among the consumers in richer countries. They simply can't afford to have their reputations tarnished for such practices when news of their doing so is just a click away. Still, even in the face of criticized employment practices, the lot of laborers is generally better as multinational employees than in other industry available to them. If it weren't, the multinationals could not find workers.
Policies regarding how abuses in human rights are treated are usually in the hands of local politicians and could not or should not be undertaken by the corporations. There is pressure for human rights and environmental issues to be addressed through trade sanctions. But this is the wrong approach for a solution unless dealing with issues that are illegal, such as drug trafficking or some other practice that is harmful to the population at large. In fact trade sanctions generally do more harm than good. What is needed instead is policy reform and/or persuasion via the NGO's for change. Such consequences are becoming more plausible all the time because of the growth of democratic practices in countries who wish to take advantage of the overall improvement of their economy through attracting multinational investment.
In fact, among poor countries, it is most desirable to encourage inward flow of capital investment that results in creating jobs, raising the standard of living, and broadening market opportunities for the country's products. Among rich countries, while there continues to be concern for fear of labor competition, their overall desire is to avail consumers of not only variety, but also affordable prices for whatever they may wish to purchase. And, among investors, there is the desire to enhance their profits through increasing world-market share.
Thus, globalization should be viewed as a good thing that can become better through the implementation of better policies, politically speaking; better practices in the capital community; and greater concern for the lot of populations in poor countries keeping in mind that the results are reduced poverty and greater opportunity. Since there is a downside in that nothing is certain in this world, from wars to weather, and disaster can strike on a small scale or a large scale at any time, those in charge should turn their attention to what can be done ahead of time to shore up defenses against catastrophe instead of conservatively holding on to outdated beliefs and procedures.
I recommend reading this book for anyone in search of arguments concerning the pros and cons of globalization. While the author may not be entirely objective in his outlook on the issue, he is nonetheless quite thorough in his investigation.
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