Term Paper: Home Exam Globalization

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[. . .] Other measures proposed by these institutions included devaluation of the local currency, which would increase exports of raw material to the North.

One particular example of such troubled relations is the case of Argentina towards the end of the twentieth century. As a result of heavy debt and its currency being pegged to the American dollar, the Argentine economy crashed in the later 1990s as its exports became much more expensive compared to those of its neighbors. The IMF stepped in to suggest economic reforms and liberalization of the economic system. In 2002, the country was able to regain the confidence of foreign investors by negotiating arrangements for paying off its huge amounts of debt. The role of the IMF during this period was criticized by the president of Argentina who accused the institution of acting like a creditor instead of a partner in economic development. During the 1990s, the interest of the North in the countries of the South remained focused on the extraction of raw materials for their manufacturing facilities in the North. An example is the oil-producing Gulf economies. Enriched with the infusion of petrodollars, the autocrats invested in infrastructure but little in the improvement of human rights standards. In most of these countries, political activity is forbidden or monitored very closely. Although democracy is stated to be the regime of choice for globalization (UNDP 25-56), the powers of the North are content to do business with undemocratic powers if the economic policies suit their interests.

After the global economic crisis, China has appeared as an important player of the North. To fuel its economic growth and to maintain steady levels, it needs to secure vast amounts of energy resources. Like its predecessors, the country is investing in the African countries for their energy resources and mineral wealth. Chinese investment in countries such as Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa has grown in recent years. In addition to resource markets, these countries are also potential consumer markets for Chinese companies. However, the nature of the relationship between the North and the South has always remained in favor of the North with little economic development beyond the extraction stage for the South economies.

Category 3: Question 1

Globalization and neo-liberal ideologies have been against human rights and democracy because they assume that economic interests should lead the policies of the state. In the current era, there is no significant threat or challenge posed to the ideal of laissez-faire economics. After the end of the Cold War and the demise of socialism, the liberal policies have re-emerged in the form of neo-liberalism. The march toward globalization that began in the late nineteenth century faced some obstacles in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Following the two world wars, the United States then led the wave of globalization and in the latter part of the twentieth century began promoting its neo-liberal policies emphasizing deregulation, privatization, the rule of the market and reduced public expenditure. According to many experts, this has led to a reduction in human rights for the majority by widening the economic disparity between the classes. According to Gindin (2002), "social justice is made compatible with globalization, not by transforming society, but by shrinking our ideals."

It is also important to discuss what human rights mean. The concept of human rights is marked by controversy. Ishay (359-371) explains how human rights date back to even before the West attempted to prescribe a list of universal human rights. The religious origins of human rights mean that the interpretation and value for human rights differ from society to society and it is difficult to argue a completely secular set of human rights. Dembour (2010) also highlights the differences in opinion on how rights are created and agreed upon in her discussion on the natural, deliberative, protest and discourse schools of thought. Globalization assumes that a Euro-centric universal set of economic and human rights exist, which is inaccurate.

Globalization and neo-liberal policies encourage the abolition of protectionist policies that governments enact to protect local businesses and industries against foreign competition. In its desire to create a level playing field, globalization ignores that all the players are not equally capable of competing. It is the responsibility of national governments to protect the weakest of the weak. On the other hand, the invisible hand of the neo-liberal economic structure forces every individual to look out for himself or face losing out in the race for the survival of the fittest. As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen as public support and welfare programs are also reduced to curb state interference in the economy. Gindin (2002) comments on the so-called "golden age" of capitalism after the Second World War in the following words:

"…internal poverty persisted; the gap between the first world and the third, in spite of decolonization, widened; it was hardly a "golden age" for women or for U.S. blacks…and corporate rule was not reduced but reinforced."

It is also important to note that globalization has also encouraged a rethinking on the concept of human rights. Ishay (359-371) explains that the information age prompted by globalization has also brought to light the Euro-centric view of human rights and democracy. In this regard, Ishay states that while globalization may have brought about the economic upliftment of a number of people in developing countries like India, these countries still rely on exporting goods and services to the developed nations. These developed nations also dominate the institutions that control globalization, which puts them at a relative advantage over developing nations in developing the norms and policies for global trade. Ishay (359-371) argues that such rules have exacerbated the poverty situation in the developing countries instead of improving it.

Klein (2004) describes how the neo-classical policies of the Bush era failed to create economic opportunities after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. She alleges that the invasion was eyed by neo-liberals as an opportunity to set up a neo-classical economic model based on globalization and free trade. She terms it the "honey theory of Iraq reconstruction" and describes how L. Paul Bremer after securing the occupation of Iraq undertook sweeping economic changes to implement the neo-classical policies in the supposedly reconstructed economy. State involvement in the economy was curtailed as Bremer immediately terminated 500,000 state employees. In addition, 200 state companies were also privatized. The corporate tax rate was also reduced from 40 to 15% to attract foreign investors. However, despite these attempts, the neo-liberals were unable to achieve a stable democracy or better economic and human rights for the Iraqis.

With little or no government regulation over economic activity, there is little protection afforded to the underprivileged sections of the community or for the environment. Globalization encourages the blind pursuit of economic profit over all other interests, so that essentials of life are also commoditized. In the developed world, this has led to a curtailment of social security benefits so that the poor are deprived of health and education opportunities. Neoliberal policies also reduce any organized attempt at resisting the growing power of multinational organizations that are answerable to no national government. They are free to operate and because of their financial might, are able to enforce terms favorable to them on the host countries. They also control greater economic resources in the name of efficiency, leaving little for the governments to exploit for the benefit of the local communities. Through collective effort, they can even push for favorable legislation in the host countries, even if it goes against the economic interests of the citizens of those countries.

Works Cited

Dembour, Marie-Benedicte. "What are Human Rights? Four schools of Thought." Human Rights Quarterly. 32.1 (2010): 1-20. Web. 6 Aug. 2012. .

Gindin, Sam. "Social Justice and Globalization: Are They Compatible?." Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine. 2002, 4(2): n. page. Web. .

Ishay, Micheline. "What are Human Rights? Six Historical Controversies." Journal of Human Rights. 3.3 (2002): 359-371. Web. 6 Aug. 2012. .

Klein, Naomi. "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neo-Con Utopia." Common Dreams. 04-08 2012: n. page. Web. 6 Aug. 2012. .

UNDP. "Human development in this age of globalization." Human Development Report 1999. UNDP, 1999. 25-56. Web. 7 Aug. 2012. .

United Nations. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" Web. 6 Aug. 2012.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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