Debunking the debunking of (Myths of) Economic Globalization

A point by point rebuttal.

Myth 1:
Economic Globalization Is Inevitable

The primary function of these bodies is to place economic values above all others, and to establish rules that suppress the ability of nation-states to sustain laws that protect nature, workers, consumers and even national sovereignty and democracy if they can be construed as slowing down free trade. The net result is the greatest transfer of economic and political power from nation-states to corporations ever in history.

The Bretton Woods Agreements (see http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/decade/decad047.htm) did not specifically say or imply"... on a globally centralized system with global corporations as the engines of economic growth." -- this is misinterpretation.

Allow me to restate one of the basic lessons of Economics. Trades occur between two informed, consenting parties because it is beneficial to both parties. Which part of this is difficult to understand? The nations involved want to make those trades so they can advance.

Myth 2:
We Need Globalization To Feed the Hungry

"The globalization of corporate industrial-style agriculture has failed to address the world's hunger crisis; in fact, it makes it worse."

Are there facts to back this up? What were the figures like for before and after? How do you know this to be true? This claim is so insanely stupendous that it is overwhelmingly difficult to back this up. Just think about the statement above for a minute. Firstly it claims that globalization directly led to "corporate industrial-style agriculture", then it claims that the world's hunger crisis has actually worsened since the onset of "globalization", finally ending with the ridiculous claim that globalization, and only globalization, was responsible for making the world's hunger crisis worse.

Global trade put local farmers out of business because it was to the country's benefit to import the same food from overseas rather than grow it themselves. Cheaper food brought about by improved agriculture technology (not globalization) allows cheaper food to be bought and thus land to be released for other purposes. Would city states such as Singapore or Hong Kong be anywhere near as successful as they are today if they had to grow their own food?

But what about the local farmers? Should the country continue buying food from them at an inflated price instead of buying it from the open market at a cheaper price? Old practices are only good in the face of an unchanging environment. Under pressure from an expanding population, the old ways of farming are bound to be insufficient to feed the growing masses.

A recent United Nations study confirms that the world already has enough food to feed the global population. The problem is one of distribution. Global trade rules put food production and distribution in the hands of agribusiness giants, supplanting the traditional system of local production for local consumption. As a result, the world is producing the wrong kind of food for export to the already well-fed, by a process that leaves millions of people landless, homeless, cashless, and unable to feed themselves as they traditionally had.

I agree that the problem is one of distribution. Since we agree on this point, I would seriously like to hear how scrapping free trade would help this issue. If the excess food produced in one country is not allowed to flow to countries that need it, how the hell can an isolationist policy possibly be any better?

Myth 3:
Globalization Will Alleviate Poverty

This has been the theme strongly trumpeted since Bretton Woods; free trade and globalization will "lift all boats," and end poverty. But in the half century since this big push began, the world has more poor and more hungry than ever before, and the situation is getting steadily worse as we approach the millennium.

I submit that the world has "more poor and more hungry than ever before", not because of globalization, but rather because of improved healthcare and sanitation causing such a rapid increase in population that the economies of the poor countries could not grow at a sufficient pace to support them.

Ask anybody from one of the Asian Economic Tigers whether or not they would prefer global trade to be a reality or not.

There exists much statistics about how concentrated wealth is but there is precious little research into how concentrated wealth was before free trade? Why do we never see those figures?

Taking this point further, I would also like to point out that the poor and hungry of this generation are generally better off than the poor and hungry of past generations anyway. Take any country that is not currently or recently ravaged by war and I think that the findings will be similar there.

Myth 4:
Economic Globalization Increases Choice

Before the reality of today's trading market, trade between countries was so sparse that only the rich could afford the speciality products of each and every tribe from weird and exotic nations. The poor handicraft makers, spending all their time fending for their own food, had little time to make crafts. Today, I can walk into a mall and purchase crystal from Austria, Pewter from Malaysia, newspapers from New York, anime from Japan, hard disks from Singapore, opals from Australia ... think of how many models of cars were available (and at what price) before and after trade barriers were lowered in your country.

I will take global trade any day for choice of products, thank you very much.

Myth 5:
Economic Globalization Increases Environmental Standards in Developing Countries by Making Countries Wealthier

Globalization is inherently destructive to the natural world because it requires that products travel thousands of miles around the planet, resulting in staggering environmental costs such as unprecedented levels of ocean and air pollution from transport, increased energy consumption and use of fossil fuels (furthering climate change), and increased use of packaging materials. It also requires devastating new infrastructure developments: new roads, ports, airports, pipelines, power grids--often constructed in formerly pristine places.

Hands up, everyone who would like to live in a country without airports, ports, electric power, roads ...

The costs (economic and environmental) of buying goods from overseas and transporting to your home country MUST be less than the cost (economic and environmental) of producing those exact same goods in your own country. If not, market forces would dictate that someone in your own country would produce those goods in your country. It makes sense. Why is this point so difficult to understand?

As to saving the environment, an often forgotten point is that only wealthier (as in not poor) countries would have the educated populace to understand the benefits of saving the environment.

Myth 6:
Opposition to Economic Globalization Is Protectionist

If protectionism refers to protecting local jobs, public health, cultural diversity, and natural resources, then protectionism is a good thing. The structure of economic globalization is itself corporate protectionism, because it is set up to protect corporations from the regulations of democratic societies.

Protectionism also leads to old, inefficient industries being supported. Is this really a good thing? Before the invention of the loom, cloth used to be woven by hand. This, of course, took at least 10 times as long and many times more workers than the mechanical machine that replaced them. Should we go back to the times when weavers wove cloth from thread? Should we protect the weavers' jobs?

As for protectionism protecting public health, cultural diversity and natural resources? Hah. The most culturally diverse nations in the world today are those that have the most vibrant economies (hint: they also tend to be pro-globalization). Public health? The public health system will be fine as long as the economy can support paying for it. I suspect this will happen better in a healthy economy. Natural resources? Far more resources are consumed by inefficient practices than by moving goods around the world.

Myth 7:
Developing Countries Are Depending on Economic Globalization To Achieve First World Standard of Living

Developing countries are, in fact, becoming poorer, not richer. They are already paying the highest price for globalization. This is because the rules of the global bureaucracies invariably favor Northern corporate interests.

-- uhuh, right. Ask any resident of Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan ... ask them how much being involved in the global market has helped their economies.

There are other examples of poor countries, of course, but figures are always left out of these claims because these neo-nazi-protectionist-environmentalists-anti-globalization pundits will not bring up concrete examples to prove their case as there are none.

Myth 8:
There Is No Realistic Alternative to Economic Globalization

We should move away from economic globalization--and toward a revitalization of local political and economic control, self-reliance and ecological preservation.

I agree - there should be more local interest in the economy, self-reliance and preservation of the environment. However, I fail to see how this has anything to do with globalization. These are two separate issues and anyone making this kind of statement is commiting the logical fallacy called a complex question, also sometimes known as a "double-barrelled question".

There is a realistic alternative as Cletus_the_Foetus has said - more freedom.

More democracy! More capitalism!



Debunking of the debunking of the debunking
Added April 12th, 2002

Myth #2:
Cletus_the_Foetus has said that the two parties who participate in a trade do so because they believe that they will both benefit, not because they will both actually benefit from this trade. This is true. I do however, submit that any party that continues to be party of trades that are detrimental to its own health will end up in self destruction before long. Such is capitalism. The weak get culled.


Myth #3:
Much has been said by both Cletus_the_Foetus and Eclectic_Scion about how wrong I am for saying that improvements in healthcare and sanitation are responsible for the huge increase in population, which is, in turn, responsible for the food shortages in those countries.

Take your mind off the extreme cost of high end medical care in developed countries. CAT scans, MRI scans, radiotherapy, chemotherapy - these are all examples of expensive medicine.

Think about cheap medicine. Antibiotics are cheap. Penicillin has been out of patent for a very long time now. Teaching villagers to boil water to help prevent cholera is cheap. Sleeping with mosquito netting is cheap. Simple "hole in the ground toilets" are cheap and function far better than centuries old "just bury it" or "just go in the river".

Populations have boomed because death rates have gone down faster than birth rates. Infant mortality is down, people are living longer - even in the poorest countries. They may not have access to even X-ray machines, never mind CAT scans but their doctors can still prescribe Amoxicillin (the pills themselves cost less than US$1 per course per adult) to cure their productive cough.


Specifically for Eclectic_Scion
I suggest that you take a step back and take the big picture view. Capitalism is a bad system, but it's the best system we have. Capitalism will even save the environment.

To provide a counter-counterpoint:

Allow me to restate one of the basic lessons of Economics. Trades occur between two informed, consenting parties because it is beneficial to both parties. Which part of this is difficult to understand? The nations involved want to make those trades so they can advance.

In the context of globalization, this is factually incorrect. The nations concerned do not conduct trade themselves; rather, international trade occurs between two corporations in two different countries (or, just as frequently, between two subsidiaries of a single international corporation.) The role of national governments in international trade is the same as the role of the governments with respect to their own economic sector: It is the government's job to institute and enforce laws that protect the rights of all parties concerned. In a democratic system, the people affected by the government's decisions are the same people who elect the government, which (in theory) ensures that the people who make up a nation are consenting to the rules instated by the government of that nation. However, when democratically elected governments can have their decisions overturned by an entity that represents a tiny percentage of the total population, there is no consent involved whatsoever.

I agree that the problem is one of distribution. Since we agree on this point, I would seriously like to hear how scrapping free trade would help this issue. If the excess food produced in one country is not allowed to flow to countries that need it, how the hell can an isolationist policy possibly be any better?

People often assume (incorrectly) that opposing globalization is equivalent to opposing trade itself. In fact, the common rallying cry heard amongst anti-globalization activists is "Fair Trade, not free trade." The explanation is simple: Fair trade is considered to mean trade agreements that give appropriate attention to issues of basic needs, human rights, environmental policy, and so on. "Free trade" contains none of these provisions, since, for example, a company can make more money exporting a high-priced commodity to a first-world nation than it can by selling a staple commodity in an impoverished nation, and free trade agreements inevitably act to the benefit of corporations (a perfect example is that NAFTA, an agreement entered into by the United States and Canada among others, contains a provision whereby private corporations can sue governments that enact policies that inhibit their ability to make money.)

I submit that the world has "more poor and more hungry than ever before", not because of globalization, but rather because of improved healthcare and sanitation causing such a rapid increase in population that the economies of the poor countries could not grow at a sufficient pace to support them.

I would submit that such assumptions about the quality of health care in developing countries is extremely optimistic.

Ask anybody from one of the Asian Economic Tigers whether or not they would prefer global trade to be a reality or not.

Right... somebody working in a sweatshop in Malaysia is going to be happy when there are even less restrictions on imports?

The costs (economic and environmental) of buying goods from overseas and transporting to your home country MUST be less than the cost (economic and environmental) of producing those exact same goods in your own country. If not, market forces would dictate that someone in your own country would produce those goods in your country. It makes sense. Why is this point so difficult to understand?

It's not actually true. An "environmental cost" is real enough in terms of the consequences, but it is not a prohibitive cost; i.e. it doesn't make things any harder to do.

As to saving the environment, an often forgotten point is that only wealthier (as in not poor) countries would have the educated populace to understand the benefits of saving the environment.

Unfortunately, the repercussions are usually indiscriminate in nature.

As for protectionism protecting public health, cultural diversity and natural resources? Hah. The most culturally diverse nations in the world today are those that have the most vibrant economies

Having people from all over the world become desperate to abandon their own homes in favour of less exploited countries does not constitute an overall improvement of cultural diversity.

(hint: they also tend to be pro-globalization).

Naturally. They can afford it.

Public health? The public health system will be fine as long as the economy can support paying for it. I suspect this will happen better in a healthy economy.

Here, i think, we get to crux of the matter. Those who fall on the pro-capitalism side of things hold that it is of paramount importance that "the system" be preserved; i.e. that someone can, in potentia, obtain for themselves a thriving business, excellent health care, education for their 2.4 kids, etc. These people also tend to be the people who have little to no difficulty in obtaining these things. People in the anti-capitalism camp hold that people should always, regardless of any other considerations, be given access to a minimum standard of needs; i.e. adequate food, water, shelter, health care, and education. If these are all reduced to the status of commodities (and those that aren't now will be if the FTAA is implemented - I'm specifically referring to education,) then this minimum standard not only will not be met, but, by the laws outlined by the trade organizations, will be illegal to implement, as government funding is seen as a trade barrier. I believe that it is in fact imperative that these standards be protected.

Natural resources? Far more resources are consumed by inefficient practices than by moving goods around the world.

In and of itself, this could be said to be true; however, it is not a point in favour of globalization. Since consumerism itself is predicated on the production of disposable products that produce high amounts of waste, this can hardly be considered to be efficient.

-- uhuh, right. Ask any resident of Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan ... ask them how much being involved in the global market has helped their economies. There are other examples of poor countries, of course, but figures are always left out of these claims because these neo-nazi-protectionist-environmentalists-anti-globalization pundits will not bring up concrete examples to prove their case as there are none.

Okay... now, being a bit lucid about this:

I assume that the assertion here is that globalization will actually improve the quality of life for people working in the above countries. However, there is certainly no reason to infer this from the texts of proposed trade agreements. In fact, the trend that can be observed (indeed, the stated purpose of these agreements) is that these agreements aim to make it easier for corporations to move commodities between countries. When you take into account that the inhibitions currently in place are laws instated by individual nations, this means that trade agreements mean less national laws. Since these laws would be the only conceivable barrier to importing the output of sweatshop labour, how then can globalization be said to help third-world workers?

I agree - there should be more local interest in the economy, self-reliance and preservation of the environment. However, I fail to see how this has anything to do with globalization.

Local interest in the economy is not the same as local political and economic control. As for what it has to do with globalization - simple: It is more profitable to produce goods with no regard for the environment, the economic stability of underdeveloped nations, or employment standards. Corporations can't reasonably be expected to police themselves with regard to these issues; that's what governments are for. By reducing the authority of democratically-elected governments in favour of allowing corporations to take more liberties with respect to the common interests of the global community (deep breath,) globalization is ultimately shafting most of the planet.

Whew. Okay, I'm done.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.