A Real World Example of Modern Globalism and “Free Trade”
Globalism has been a common topic on the lips of news correspondents and political strategists for the last twenty years. For the most part, however, the American public does not seem to know what it is. In general, globalism could be thought of as internationalism, which is the concept that it is a small world, after all – the ability to travel easily and communicate with people and societies around the world. This, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the current political term, globalism.
So what, then, is globalism? I could get all technical here and describe to you that globalism is the capitalistic idea of “free trade” around the world yadda yadda, but then we would be forced into defining terms that, like globalism, have many meanings based on what side of the issue you are on. I thought it might be much simpler to describe globalism through a real world scenario – that of the relationship between Mexico and the United States of America since the enacting of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, one of the first coups in the globalization of the world, in 1991.
Further, this understanding might lead to a better understanding of the current political climate in the United States which has suddenly left us in an anti-immigrant and isolationist frenzy.
I am going to try to stay quite generalized in this short discussion, but feel free to research the full history behind the implementation of NAFTA and its results on Mexican and U. S. relations.
So, for all of those out there in need of a primer on globalism...
Here’s Looking at Mexico
Mexico is a nation of great natural resources, including maybe the three most important natural resources in the world today – oil, tillable land and fresh water. Why, then, is Mexico caught in its current state of poverty and its inability to create a national economy capable of, at the very least, supporting itself with the most basic of human needs? Just to look at Mexico one would be tempted to grab the closest person around by the collar and yell, "Just plant some corn or something, like your grandfather did and his grandfather before him!"
With the free trade agreements adopted since 1991 (NAFTA and other free trade agreements) the trade borders between Mexico and the United States have been opened, which allows the abundance of corn produced in the United States to be shipped to Mexico. At the same time, Mexico took other "free trade" measures, such as to quickly phase out tariffs on trade, and eliminate government subsidies for production. The United States, however, did not seem to believe so much in the "free trade" which they were advocating. This corn that began to be shipped across the boarder to Mexico was being substantially subsidized by the government of the United States, which has driven down the price of corn on the world and local markets. Like all other developing countries in the world, almost half of the Mexican population currently lives off the land, and corn is still one of the most popularly produced crops in Mexico. This plummeting price of corn, however, has led to even more widespread poverty in rural and farming areas in Mexico.
It was expected that Mexican farmers who could not keep up with the ever changing demands of the "free market" would adjust to different types of crops. Land conditions in Mexico have, for the most part, prevented this kind of adaptation. These small family farms, not being able to adapt, have been destroyed, instead. At the same time that the Mexican farmers have found themselves slipping further and further into poverty, major food producers such as Green Giant and Birdseye have invested billions of dollars into the Mexican agricultural industry, and are showing staggering profits. This is leading to a further consolidation of agricultural production into the hands of multinational corporations.
The number of families living off their farm production has been shrinking in Mexico. The percentage of the population employed in the agricultural field has shrunk by almost half since the 1980s. While corn prices began to fall in the mid and late 1990s, the Mexican peso underwent massive deflation, and became almost worthless. One would hope this would be helped by the falling price of corn, and that "corn foods" would likewise fall in price. This has not been the reality of the situation in Mexico, however. As corn prices have fallen, prices for corn food – such as the tortilla – have increased at an even faster rate. Families who have historically lived off of their land, and the occasional selling of their farming services to larger local farms, are more increasingly reporting that members of their families live outside their communities, along with the growing migration of whole families.
So what are these people doing to survive? Where are they going? For an answer to this question, we can look into our own history, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Many farm families were forced to abandon their lives and move to the cities to find work in factories. This is exactly what has been going on in Mexico since 1993. (It should be noted here that a portion of the more capable work force are doing the only reasonable thing they can see to do, which is to immigrate – legally or illegally – to the United States to find work, but I will come back to this later.)
So we now have a huge sector of the Mexican population moving to city centers in search of work. But where are these people to be employed? Luckily free trade has also provided us with an answer to this problem. Since it is cheaper to build and staff a factory in Mexico than it is to continue to operate one in Michigan, and since it is now also legal to do so because of free trade, we have factories opening in large Mexican metropolises to provide jobs for the workers who are fleeing the country-side.
These workers are then paid wages equivalent to one-tenth their of comparable work in the United States – barely enough to cover the basic needs of survival. These workers, however, are now slaves to these jobs because, as we all know, they cannot afford to not have this job because they will indeed starve to death. But these factories do not provide everybody with work. A large portion of the Mexican work force is left unemployed. These masses of unemployed provide a kind of insurance to the factory owners, however. Whenever your workers get uppity and try to demand better working conditions or fair pay, these workers can easily be fired and replaced by those who are starving to death, waiting for a chance to get some work.
Thus we have created a virtual slave state for the capitalistic whims of the master state (that's us). This also brings us back to immigration. The reason the protection of our borders here in the United States has become such a huge topic of late is not because of the need to protect our borders from the threat of terrorism, which if were the case it would be much more prudent to protect our borders with Canada which, as we all know, was the means of entry into the United States of the September 11th hijackers. It is, in fact, the need to keep this cheap work force in their slave state. If the worker is allowed to leave the slave state not only have you lost his work power, you are also now susceptible to this worker returning with enough money to free himself from his enslavement (to return and buy enough land for a family farm, which seems to be the goal of most immigrants from Mexico). This is why it is a key tenant of globalism that while goods and money should easily be allowed to cross international borders, people should not. To these ends we now have the political fabrication of fear of the immigrant in the United States for reasons such as violent crime and the "stealing" of health care.
Here I have presented, surely not free of bias, a real life example of the effects and goals of the current idea of globalization on those countries which desperately want to join the world economy – which you can easily see not only in Mexico, but around the world, if you wish to simply look through all the confusion and distractionism presented by the mass media on the subject. I have not gone into all the history and details of these policies and how they have been implemented, which would take me an incredible amount of time to research and result in an article too long to read, instead I have chosen to take a quick snapshot of where they have left things today as is obvious to anybody willing to connect all the dots through the information easily available to the American public. I should also point out that these ideas and observations are not unique to me, I have simply chosen to gather them here in a hopefully easy to read article. Obviously I am not in the least bit a proponent of these kinds of policies and I do not wish to hide that.
= Gisele Henriques and Raj Patel, “NAFTA, Corn, and Mexico’s Agricultural Trade Liberalization,” Americas Program (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, January
= Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, M.A.I. (the Multilateral Agreement on Investment) and the Threat to American Freedom, New York: Stoddart, 1998.
= Leslie Crawford, "Legacy of Shock Therapy," Financial Times (London), February 12,1997, p. 11.