Term Paper: In Defense of Globalization

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¶ … Defense of Globalization

This present age has been described as the Era of Globalization. It has replaced the Roaring 20s, the Cold War and the Space Age (Porter 2005) and vastly differs from previous ages in many ways. Today, people the world over are more connected than at any other period in history. Communication and money move more rapidly. Products and services are turned out by one part of the world and become increasingly more available to other parts. International travel has also become more frequent and made the world appear small. Globalization has its own political, economic and cultural characteristics and forces, which allow businesses to operate as if there were no national boundaries, also allow social activists, labor organizations, journalists, teachers and others to work and function on the global stage (Porter).

Globalization has introduced exciting developments. But the World Trade Organization and the World Bank/International Monetary Fund are not too happy about this trend (Fischer and Mussa 2000, 2001). While admitting that living conditions have significantly improved in practically all the countries in the world, they also noted that the benefactors of globalization have been the advanced countries and only a number of developing countries. In their view, the gap between high-income and low-income countries has grown wider and that the population living in dire poverty has risen to a disturbing degree. They disagreed that globalization is responsible for the gap and that nothing can be done about it. They, in fact, perceived that low-income countries have not been able to integrate with the current global economy as quickly as others, owing partly to policies and partly to extraneous factors beyond their control. The IMF believed that countries, especially poor countries, should not be left out or isolated from the world economy, but should all contribute to the reduction of poverty. It suggested that the international community should, instead, strengthen the international financial system through trade and aid in helping poor countries manage and integrate into the world economy, grow faster and decrease poverty. This, according to the IMF, is the only way that globalization can benefit all the countries in the world (Fischer and Mussa).

In his book, "In Defense of Globalization (2003)," Swedish economist and Timbro fellow Johan Norberg presents an analysis of the merits of global capitalization and the benefits that all of society has derived from it. He first admits that capitalism is not a perfect system and that it is not always good for everyone all the time. But he bewails how these international organizations ground their attack on separate events, such as the folding up of a factory and reduced wages. Misfortunes happen to some people and even the best means can lead to misfortunes, but the contention of these international organizations does not give the "larger picture." That "larger picture" is that capitalism has remained the one and consistent source of the greatest benefits that have helped the largest number of people most of the time and in comparison with other alternatives (Norberg). This is the central theme of his book.

In the first part, Norberg repeats and compellingly emphasizes that the universal condition of peoples around the world have been vastly and rapidly improving (2003 pp 25-47). He bases his position on the conclusive findings of various studies that point to positive global developments and trends on increased life expectancy; decreased infant mortality, poverty and hunger; and increased overall quality of life. He documents the 10%-to-70% increase of access to drinkable water in rural populations since more a decade ago. Illiteracy has been significantly reduced, democratization has been rising substantially and incidence of oppression of women in many countries has been going down. He attributes the declining oppression of women as an important indicator that globalization has been closing, rather than broadening, the poverty gap. He points to these series of changes as consequences of technological and economic advances proceeding naturally from open market policies

Norberg believes that the opposition to globalization has mostly been less substantive and more emotionally or politically charged. One criticism is that globalization imposes capitalism and the benefits of multinational corporations on people. Norberg does not see capitalism as being forced into the throat of anyone but that the consequences of globalization and capitalism only prove just the opposite of what is held against them: it is capitalism that enables and empowers people to make free decisions, that is, without the coercion it is accused of (Norberg). Like everyone else, Norberg believes that no country should impose its way of life on other countries. Regardless of values, the majority people everywhere want to live under better material conditions because it is under these conditions that they can widen their range of options and depending on how they decide to use increased wealth. In this situation, the vast majority opts for the opportunities offered by capitalism in the form of benefits and options and Norberg does not think that this constitutes coercion.

Anti-globalization bodies and sectors also accuse capitalism as harming the environment, which Norberg counters by referring to numerous studies, which found very strong and positive links between environmental indicators and the level of economic development in a country (Norberg 2003). He sees environmental improvements as following increased prosperity. A country that has more and better means of supporting its people's basic needs also becomes more capable and willing to improve its environmental conditions.

In most of the book, Norberg discusses anti-globalization arguments to the negative impact of capitalism in the Third World and developing nations, where capitalism has been associated with poor working conditions, environmental degradation, forced child labor and overall detriments to living (2003). He pits these against extensive evidence that developing nations have substantially profited from capitalism and that the protectionist policies held by these anti-globalization critics are responsible for the charges they hurl at capitalism and globalization.

Norberg maintains that globalization, the increase in international trade, communications and investments are the most profitable and most efficient means of sharing, extending and contributing international opportunities (2003). He agrees with globalization opponents' claim that a big part of the world has been left out, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, but this is also the case with the least liberal sector of the world, which operates with the strongest controls and regulations and the weakest on property rights. Anti-globalization groups bewail African misery but not the sadness of the average North Korean and his repulsion towards American imperialism, Norberg writes.

Official statistics from national governments, the United Nations and the World Bank/IMF reveal the dramatic and unprecedented improvement of the human condition in the last three decades or more, but taken for granted. During that time, chronic hunger and extensive child labor in developing countries were reduced to half. Life expectancy went up from 46 to 64 and infant mortality dropped from 18 to 18%. These figures rate better in the developing world than in the opulent, advanced countries a century ago. In a generation of 30 years, the average income in developing countries went up two times (Norberg). The United Nations Development Programme itself reported that global poverty had declined more in the last 50 years than in the 500 years before. The absolute poor who earn less than $1 a day, according to the World Bank itself, have become significantly reduced by 20 million despite world population growth at 1.5 billion in the same last two decades. Norberg feels that even these admirable findings and conclusions overestimate world poverty because the World Bank bases its assessments on unreliable and blameworthy survey data, which judge and rate the South Korean as richer than the Swedes and the British and Ethiopia richen than India. These surveys also fail to note and appreciate individual income less and less. Surveys in 1987 on poverty and the level of income among the poor increased in 1998 by 17%. Former World Bank economist Surjit S. Bhalla published his calculations, saying that the United Nations' objective of lowering world poverty level to less than 15% by 2015 was already attained and even exceeded. He reported that absolute poverty actually fell from the 44% level in 1980 to 13% in 2000 (Norberg) and that the GDP per capita of developing countries as a whole increased by 3.1% from 1980 to 2000 in comparison with developed or advanced countries' growth at only 1.6%.

Norberg plots these developing countries as repeating the experience of Sweden, his native country, from the late 19th century and in a faster pace (2003). Compared with England, which doubled its wealth in almost 60 years from 1780, Sweden achieved the same objective in only 40 years a hundred years later than England. Another century later, South Korea accomplished the same feat in only a bit more than 10 years. Anyway it is measured today, poverty has never been reduced this low and living standards raised this high. The Era of Globalization has erected an environment for an even faster growth and sharing of opportunities and creation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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