Gian Piero de Bellis
Polyarchy : essays on statism
(2003 - 2011)
Globalism / Antiglobalism
If somebody living in England around the middle of the 19th century, when
the "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations" opened in London under the Crystal Palace (1851) and when Marx and Engels were busy writing their Manifesto, celebrating the irresistible rise of the bourgeoisie, the continuous expansion of industry and the development of world exchanges, if that person were to come back to life now, at the beginning of the 21st century, and, sitting in a library, browsing through recent books and magazines and newspapers, tried to acquire some information about the present state of the world's societies, it is most likely that he/she would be struck by how little humanity has progressed (or how much it has regressed) in many aspects of social life.
The world that person left behind was a world (seemingly) on the march towards increasing
- Political liberalism
- Economic internationalism
- Cultural cosmopolitanism
To give a glimpse of how the world (or at least the most advanced country) was, right till the beginning of the 20th century, it is worth reading the description of life in England with which A. J. P. Taylor starts his "English History":
"Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any other country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police." [1965, A. J. P. Taylor]
All this changed with the outbreak of the First World War. What resulted was the emergence of another world, characterized mainly by the following aspects:
- Political totalitarianism: people recognized and accepted the power of the state to intervene in any area of social life. The forms by which this power was attributed were the totalitarian electoral democracy (the ruler is elected), the totalitarian plebiscitary democracy (the ruler is hailed), or a mixture of the two.
- Economic protectionism: people recognized and accepted the territorial power of the state to put restrictions on the freedom of exchange, making the interests of the consumers (i.e. everybody) subservient to the interests of the national producers (employers and employees).
- Cultural nationalism: people recognized and accepted the existence of distinct homogeneous national cultures and saw in the state the defender and protector of these so called national identities.
The political and economic changes that followed the outbreak of the war had the effect of transforming the world into a less free and less safe place, where rivalries was the new name for relations. Furthermore, they succeeded in obliterating any memory of the past, making people believe that the new phenomena, for instance the (presumed) existence of national identities or the introduction of identification documents, were indispensable pre-existing realities, natural as the air we breathe.
This obliteration of our past has gone so deep and so far that, towards the end of the 20th century, fad-promoting intellectuals and fad-following journalists have been busy writing books and articles, giving speeches and seminars about what they have presented as a brand new phenomenon, globalism, or, as they call it, globalization.
The absurd fuss or excitement about a novelty that is not
new should make everybody aware that, actually, we live in
an upside down world, in which freedom (of movement, of settlement, of
exchange) is a phenomenon that gets scrutinized and debated, while restrictions
of all sorts are facts accepted and taken for granted.
It is then necessary to examine how and why all this came to be, in other words how and why an outlook and a praxis based on globalism (liberalism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism) were replaced by ideologies and practices vehemently opposed to it. This is the real problem.
The decline of globalism (^)
The spread of intellectual enlightenment and industrial activity that
characterized most of the 18th and 19th centuries came to a halt at the
beginning of the 20th century.
By that time, the formation of nation states throughout Europe, with the exception of the federation of nationalities that constituted the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had been achieved.
At a certain point, nationalism (aspirations to self-government) and capitalism (industrial productive attitudes) became associated with or obliterated by the state and ceased to be forces of liberation and progress.
One of the most important characteristics of the years right
before the end of the 19th century was the continuous and significant
growth of the state budget and of state expenditure.
In 1890 the United Kingdom had a population 37.5 million inhabitants and state spending amounted to less than 80 million pounds. In 1901, with a population of 41.5 million inhabitants (an increase of slightly over 10%), state expenditure had reached almost 178 million pounds (an increase of over 122%). [1902, John Hobson]
The growth of the role of the state is associated (as cause and effect) with the predominance of the following interconnected phenomena:
- Protectionism. The protectionist policies that had been abandoned or relaxed by the states came back into fashion once the international competition was felt to be too challenging. Inefficient firms with obsolete processes of production demanded and received protection from a nation state who wanted to play a bigger role, everywhere, even in a country with liberal institutions like England. National protectionism was the path leading to the formation of national cartels or monopolies.
- Monopolism. Under the protection of state tariffs either a group of firms was able to take control of the internal market or the biggest firm could grow to the point of monopolizing it. Besides that, the central state granted to itself monopolistic power of running collective services (transport, electricity, etc.) or conceded to a national firm exclusive rights of exploitation and administration in a particular field. A further push towards monopolism was achieved when the state, becoming an ever-bigger economic entity in itself, assigned to already large firms contracts for the production of all sorts of goods, increasing their size and reinforcing their dominance of a sector of production. All these facts extended the area of monopolies and monopolistic practices.
- Financialism. Monopolies drain resources in excess of what would be a healthy competitive situation, leading to the accumulation of vast fortunes. The capitalist entrepreneur either became or gave way to the financial rentier. Banks and financial institutions, under the supervision of the state central bank, increasingly took the central role in the economy. The rentier found at his disposal enormous sums of money; one of the surest ways to invest this money was to finance the state debt. For this reason the financier was in favour of the expansion of the role of the state, everywhere in the world; it meant opportunities to invest his money in state bonds.
- Militarism. One of the quickest ways of overburdening the state budget was to push for military expenditure. This was what the financiers did (through the jingoist press) and what the military circles of the state were, in any case, keen to do. At the turn of the 19th century the nation states were fast becoming machines for war. Of the 178 million pounds spent by the English state in 1901, almost 80% was for military and naval expenses and for repaying the national debt [1902, John Hobson]. The states of Germany, France, Italy were not behind England in the arms race and every increase in spending on armaments in one state provided motivation and justifications for the other states to follow suit.
- Imperialism. The result of all these new phenomena was imperialism. Imperialism is not at all the outcome of an industrial capitalism looking for new export markets. As Hobson made very clear a long time ago [1902, John Hobson], the role of Africa or Asia as absorbing markets was practically insignificant during the age of imperialism and even later. The main bulk of trade was and still is between industrial countries, with a population enjoying a high level of income (and so purchasing power) through the production of goods and services that are exchanged for other goods and services. To understand imperialism we would do better to think of it as a political affair (to gain prestige and power for the state élite), a financial affair (to guarantee the repayment of loans and monetary charges to the financial élite) and an employment affair (to provide occupation in the military, bureaucratic or foreign service to the sons of the political élite and its associates).
These five phenomena (protectionism, monopolism, financialism, militarism, imperialism), reinforcing each other, succeeded in stopping and reversing the journey towards globalism. At the same time, they represent the many facets of a new system coming to general dominance, in stark opposition to liberalism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism: statism.
The end of globalism: the long escape from freedom and dignity (^)
The outbreak of the First World War marks the end of globalism and the
worldwide emergence of statism on a national basis.
The war brings to the fore all the germs incubated under protectionism, monopolism, financialism, militarism, imperialism. These factors have, by then, become the accepted ideological pillars in the practical armoury of statism.
They are pushed even further by the new movements that arise from the material and moral ravages of the war. These political movements peddle the promise of a total regeneration of society; what they really mean by this is that the state, identified with society, takes full control of the individuals.
The era of statism is the time of the individual incorporated into the masses and subjugated under the state. Liberalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism are, then, completely obliterated.
The ideologies and movements through which statism, more systematically, dominated the first half of the 20th century are:
- Communism. The communist movement that took power in Russia in 1917 would, in the course of time, bring to perfection the factors listed above, and especially those of monopolism (everything is run by the state) and imperialism (ethnic groups are displaced, weakened, annihilated). The siege mentality (long after the reasons that justified it had disappeared) and the theorization of "socialism in one country" are the most evident signs of the distaste for internationalism and cosmopolitanism that were, by contrast, the hallmarks of the 19th century communist thinkers, encapsulated in the words that end the communist manifesto: Proletarians of all countries unite!
- Fascism. The ideology of fascism, as well as its leader Mussolini, are both a clear derivation from socialism. A socialism in which internationalism and individual emancipation have been thrown out of the window and replaced by nationalism and state control. This resulted in autocracy (state dirigism) and autarchy (state protectionism) with the extirpation of everything that could smell of liberalism and cosmopolitanism. In Italy, under Fascism, "alien" ethnic groups living within the territory controlled by the Italian state were either forcibly assimilated or invited to pack and leave (e.g. the German-speaking population in South-Tyrol). Even the language was subject to a purifying process, in the attempt to expel "foreign" words. All so idiotic and all so tragic.
- National Socialism. The ideology and movement that, even in its name, reflects best the spirit of the age is National Socialism. Here we have a totally closed society where the purity of the race is paramount and the mixing of individuals belonging to the oikoumené of the world had to be, not only avoided, but, in some cases, forbidden and punished. The total rejection of internationalism and cosmopolitanism by National Socialism appears clearly in its attempt at world domination, where everything is reduced to the relationship between a master (the superior race) and its servants (the inferior races). It is the apotheosis of militarism and imperialism within a protected and totally regulated political and economic space.
What characterizes these three movements is the fact that they brought to full realization the tendencies and attitudes of their epoch, namely
- an anti-liberal stance (against individualism)
- an anti-capitalistic stance (against internationalism)
- an anti-humanistic stance (against cosmopolitanism)
They represent an escape from freedom and dignity in search of protection and security. They all advocate a closed society under the control and direction of the state. They have actually been the total destroyers of any seed of globalism that had started germinating in the previous century.
The resumption of globalism: the slow recovery of freedom and dignity (^)
At the end of the long period of European Civil Wars (1914-1945), the
fall of Fascism and National Socialism marked the end, in Western Europe,
of the experience of the totally dictatorial states.
With the collapse of extreme statism, the human being of post-war Europe was free, at least in the Western part, from the suffocating embrace of the state; nevertheless, he was still led by the hand by more or less well-intentioned statesmen and politicians.
In fact, the post-war years have been the time of continuous
expansion of the welfare state with its apparatus of social security
It has also been the time of state national planning with the aim of directing the energy of a country towards social and economic progress.
These were all good and honourable propositions. It can be acknowledged that even the dictatorial regimes, as far as internal matters are concerned, had produced and implemented some worthy and commendable measures.
At the same time, it needs to be stressed that there is something basically and intrinsically unhealthy in all this and it is the fact that any intervention from a bureaucratic institution breeds, almost inevitably, irresponsibility and incompetence in all who are involved in it: those who receive because they are led to believe that it is their legitimate right to get something for nothing, and in the course of time, become unable to achieve anything by themselves; those who distribute the resources because they are likely to become sloppy and careless in administering the funds as not originating, directly or principally, from them.
All bureaucratic institutions seem to be based on irresponsibility and
distaste for accountability. The state being the bureaucratic institution
par excellence, it is there that we find irresponsible acts and lack of
accountability at its highest level. But no institution can survive forever
on such shaky grounds.
So, two hundred years after the French Revolution (1789) started the process of enthroning the state with all its features and fixtures (democracy by representatives, decision by majority, administration by bureaucracy), the state has experienced a series of earthquakes, the most violent taking place there where it was most oppressive and invasive. The Fall of the Berlin Wall (prelude to the collapse of the Soviet Empire) and the demonstrations in Tien-an-men Square in Beijing (1989) have been only the most evident signs of a change of attitudes towards the state and state control.
All the pillars of statism, some already reduced in size and strength, have been brought into question or shaken by new realities. Let us highlight only a few points.
- Protectionism. The post-war world has seen the implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) with the aim of reducing tariffs and freeing commerce from the most absurd restrictions. This has been partly responsible for the post-war recovery and expansion of Western economies. In 1995 the GATT became the WTO (World Trade Organization) with the mission of reducing even further the obstacles to the freedom of commerce. Trading with each other (instead of treading on each other) is seen, once again, as in Richard Cobden's times, as the best way to promote peace and development.
- Monopolism. With the lowering of barriers, monopolism is under threat as big firms lose their national fiefs. Moreover and at the same time, new technological tools (e.g. Internet) give to every individual the power to communicate with the entire world and to build virtual communities not bound by any territorial (i.e. state) reality. As for the economy, these tools allow for a better working of competition, offering plenty of information to isolated consumers in their dealing with producers who are still powerful, but not so powerful as before.
- Financialism. The 20th century has been characterized by almost constant inflation (sometimes hyperinflation) mainly due to the subordination of monetary policy to the interest of the state élite. As a matter of fact, the country with the strongest currency (the Deutsche Mark) in the post war period was also the one with a Central Bank independent of political manoeuvring. With the decline of protectionism and monopolism, inflation is not any longer a viable proposition to solve the problems of political mismanagement of the economy. Throughout Europe, the Central Banks (presently the European Central Bank) got out from under the protective (i.e. manipulative) wings of the state in order to focus only on administering the currency. The time of financial rentiers shielded by political cliques might be almost over.
- Militarism. The collapse of the communist system and the disappearance of the Soviet Union have brought to an end the historical chapter known as the cold war. This has taken away most of the justifications for expenditure on armaments and for the continuous build-up of weapons that has been the general practice of almost every state on earth. It does not mean that militarism is over but only that it is not any longer silently and implicitly accepted as in the past. Moreover, military spending is a burden that, if carried on a large scale and for a long period, might undermine any state, as the experience of the Soviet Union has shown.
- Imperialism. Asia and Africa, the old battlegrounds of imperialism, have changed (Asia) and are changing (Africa). They have entered or are entering more and more the scene of world trade after having been kept or remained on the margins for so long (especially Africa). The dictators that found protection in some superpower (USA, USSR) or western state (France, United Kingdom) have lost their godfathers and they are not so able, on their own, to oppress people as they used to do for decades.
So, one after the other, the old evil forces of protectionism, monopolism, financialism, militarism, imperialism, all orchestrated under the direction of the state and operating under the surface throughout the period of the cold war, were/are losing power because the state is on the retreat and the individual affirming his freedom to move and trade and communicate all over the world is on the rise.
It should not then come as a surprise that, at this precise moment in history, when many favourable factors have converged for a possible overcoming of statism, the old scourges of anti-liberalism, anti-internationalism and anti-cosmopolitanism reappear on the scene. This time their banner is, at least, clear and unequivocal: anti-globalization.
Anti-globalization: a new fad (^)
Anti-globalization is a new (in the sense of recently appeared) political
fad but it is not a new phenomenon.
In the course of history cosmopolitanism has alternated or cohabited with insularity, provincialism and chauvinism.
For individuals like Leibniz, Voltaire, Kant who were corresponding and exchanging ideas with people all over Europe and travelling extensively, with the mind and/or the body, there were many others who had their mind closed and body confined in a very narrow space and could not think of the inhabitants of the next village without a feeling of uneasiness or even fright.
On the whole, cosmopolitanism is more an attitude of opening the mind than the result of moving the feet and changing place, even if travelling does help in enlarging views. Kant, for instance, never left Könisberg but he was a true cosmopolitan. Hegel, on the other hand, who had a less sedentary life, could be seen, to a certain extent, as the epitome of the nationalistic narrow-minded person, celebrating with bombastic words the glory of his Prussian State. In ancient times Epictetus expressed the idea of the human being as world citizen; this cosmopolitan attitude, fusing and transcending both localism and globalism, was encapsulated by Johann Wolfgang Goethe in the statement: "I am a citizen of Weimar, I am a citizen of the world."
Against these modern cosmopolitan attitudes and tendencies
originating in the 17th and 18th centuries' Enlightenment, the nationalistic
movements that emerged in the course of the 19th century began a long struggle
that was highly successful; in fact, it led to the dominance, everywhere,
of national states and national cultures.
The current antiglobalist attitudes are historically linked to that source of nationalism and statism. In other words, the main aspects that characterize the present anti-globalization movement represent the core points of the nationalistic and statist vision and rely on the anti-cosmopolitan tendencies of the past.
Those tendencies favoured the introduction by the ruling élites of the nation states of certain obstacles that were necessary for setting up and reinforcing their control of the territory and of the people they had taken over. The impediments affected the:
- Circulation of individuals. The main obstructions to the free movement of people were the invention of the passport and the introduction of state laws putting conditions on international travelling [2000, John Torpey]. Passports were issued to check movement of individuals even inside the state (internal passports). As for entering another country, let us focus on one reputed as amongst the most open in the world, the USA. Already in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act had prohibited the entry of Chinese workers for ten years. In 1904 the exclusion became permanent and in 1907 it was extended to Japanese and then to Korean citizens. In 1917 the literacy test was introduced in order to restrict immigration by excluding those with no reading and writing skills. Finally, in 1921, the Quota Act fixed a maximum number of entrants in the country (357,000 individuals per year), a figure that was halved in the second Quota act of 1924.
- Circulation of goods. In the USA, a series of Tariff Acts (the McKinley Tariff, 1890; the Dingley Tariff, 1897; the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, 1922; the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, 1930) had been preceded by Tariff Laws in various European states (Austria 1874-1875 and later 1881 and 1887; Russia 1877; Spain, 1877 and 1891; Germany, 1879; France, 1881 and 1892; Italy, 1887; Sweden, 1888). The imposition of tariffs, restricting the drive towards technical innovation and business opportunities, was actually damaging the economic situation of everybody in general. Failure to acknowledge this was conducive to the political and economic attitude in favour of autarchy that would dominate the first half of the 20th century and that would be responsible above all for the long depression.
- Circulation of ideas. The obstacles to the circulation of individuals and goods due to the strengthening of state national borders and controls had also a negative effect on the circulation of ideas. If we consider how large, after the Second World War, was the contribution of immigrants to the revival of the sciences in the USA (physics, mathematics, architecture, psychology, sociology, etc.), we realize how negatively state controls on free circulation affect the realm of ideas (creation, diffusion). Besides that, state control of the means of communication and the efforts bestowed by the state on the formation of a national identity have not been, for sure, factors facilitating the free circulation and cross-fertilization of ideas coming from the outside.
It is therefore appropriate to say that the general climate promoting and hardening anti-globalist feelings was one based on the refusal of freedom and on the lack of acknowledgment of the dignity of every human being.
Anti-globalization: attitudes and arguments (^)
The current attitudes and arguments of the anti-globalization movement
resemble and repeat many aspects of the past.
At the same time, it is necessary to point out that the movement is made up of so many strings of thought and themes of intervention that what applies to one group might be anathema to another. So, more than an integrated and well-developed set of ideas and positions what appears is a series of not clearly defined feelings and options, all present at the same time within the movement.
Nevertheless, all those who accept the "anti-globalization" label must be consistent enough to recognize that they share mental attitudes that oppose one or all of the following three manifestations of freedom. In other words, they are:
- Against freedom of movement (national segregationism: individuals)
Anti-globalization people oppose the freedom of movement not regulated (i.e. not highly restricted) by the state. According to them the state must have total sovereignty over its territory and can decide who should have access to that territory. In this vision the world is seen as made of national clubs or, better, national caged boxes, where admission (and even exit) is regulated by a ruling body.
The justifications put forward for this national segregationism are:
- personal security: the so-called "foreigners" are often seen, mainly (it must be stressed) by uneducated people, as a menace to safety. For this reason, in the course of history, "foreigners" have often been the target of fear and the scapegoat for irrational bursts of rage. There is nothing surprising about this and it will probably be like that until we stop calling some human beings, "foreigners." or "aliens," like Martians from another planet.
- social security: the so-called "foreigners" are accused of using and abusing the provision of services offered by the welfare state to its subjects; for this reason they are seen as intruders who are appropriating resources that belong to the natives.
- Against freedom of trade (national protectionism: goods)
Anti-globalization people oppose the free circulation of goods advocated by what they call the ultra-liberalist wing. The arguments in support of protectionist policies refer, generally and variously, to:
- the loss of jobs in the old industrial regions (mature industries);
- the gaining of jobs in the new industrializing regions (infant industries).
- Against freedom of expression (national isolationism: ideas)
Anti-globalization people oppose the free flow of cultural artifacts and "alien" ideas. Certainly no one openly admits to being against the freedom of expression/fruition of world art and culture but this is the indirect result when measures are requested/implemented for
- regulating the access to information and entertainment coming from other cultures (e.g. quotas)
- favouring a national art and a national cultural industry (e.g. subsidies)
All this in the name of protecting a national cultural identity.
These three (partial) negations of freedom (of movement, of trade, of expression) represent attitudes of the anti-globalization movement not always consciously held. The ideological make-up of the movement is so contradictory, varying from the passionate nationalist to the not less passionate internationalist, that some people will not recognize themselves as supporters of one or all of these anti-freedom instances. Some would even profess that they are for the full expansion of freedom and the abolition of every barrier.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that we refer to an entity that calls itself the anti-globalization movement and whoever accepts that name must inevitably accept also all the traps and trappings, that is the mines and meanings attached to that label. Only Humpty Dumpty can get away with using words to mean what he chooses to mean [1871, Lewis Carroll]. But here there is no Alice and we are not in Wonderland.
Anti-globalization: villains and slogans (^)
The anti-globalization movement has some clearly targeted villains. The
main ones are the multinational firms, against which are addressed arguments
that have become substantiated in a series of slogan-like statements.
The central points of some of those statements will now be listed in order to be examined more carefully at a later stage.
Many arguments have been part of the anti-capitalistic movement but they have received a new lease of life from the anti-globalization movement.
With regard to the multinationals, the sins or the negative aspects that they are reproached for are, briefly, the fact that these firms:
- aim at the maximization of profits;
- locate where the salaries are lowest;
- employ children and women in their factories;
- destroy the environment through their ways of production;
- obliterate cultural identities;
- are more powerful than many nation states.
A second villain is identified as the International Organizations (World
Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization), which are
said to promote policies of free trade and balanced state budget. According
to the movement, these very policies
- put an intolerable weight on the shoulders of the poor (increasing debts, pushing for a reduction in social expenditures, etc.);
- widen the gap between rich and poor.
At first sight all these seem awful misdeeds against which we all have
to rally, fighting for their disappearance and for the redress of any wrongs.
However, before jumping to action, we have first to analyze, with a critical mind
- the reasonableness of some charges;
- the evidence in support of some charges.
Only after having done so can we have a clear picture of the reality, not distorted by myths, mystifications, omissions. At the end of this examination we can go back to re-consider the attitudes and arguments of the anti-globalization movement and see if they represent a truthful and sensible portrait of the situation.
The myths of the anti-globalization movement (^)
The anti-globalization movement has built its name and appeal on the invention and diffusion of some myths that are repeated over and over again, are believed by too many people, but nevertheless still remain bloated and blatant distortions of reality. They refer to:
- The existence of the free market. In a world made of states or super states, each one protecting its own turf with tariffs; where the rich countries spend every day 1 billion dollars on agricultural subsidies; where some areas of the world are almost totally excluded from trade because of red tape imposed by these states, where the never ending saga of tariff reduction is intermingled with yet new tariffs (on steel, on shoes, on textiles, on pasta, on cars, etc.), spreading the idea of the existence of an international free market is not just propaganda, it is pure and simple deception (or self-deception). Moreover, to insist on the belief that we live in a free trade world is to perform a cruel hoax on the people in the developing countries, given the fact that duties on processed goods imposed on their economies by the industrialized world are four times higher than on corresponding goods from other industrialized countries [1999, Thomas Hertel and Will Martin].
- The ultra-liberal stances of state power. To use the word liberal (in its original sense of favouring freedom) in relation to the state is, to put it midly, a linguistic blunder. The state is a controlling and domineering organization that harbours, mostly, very illiberal tendencies. A certain openness shown recently towards other states derives from the sheer necessity to cope with new technologies and to fend off new desires and new powers on the part of the individuals that threaten its survival. Nevertheless, this should not blind us to the fact that the biggest obstacles to liberalization (freedom of movement, of trade, of expression) have come and are likely to come from the state élites. So, talking of ultra-liberalism with reference to state power is total and utter nonsense. Freedom is advancing despite and against the state.
- The all-powerful international organizations. Notwithstanding the fact that the nation state is in decline, it is still the source of most manifestations of power. International organizations are made up of representatives designated by the nation states; decisions taken by international organizations are implemented by the nation states only if the national Parliaments ratify them. Even a small state could still carry on for quite a long time in total defiance of international resolutions; and if a state has troubles they are most likely to come from another state. Economic international organizations (like the International Monetary Fund) are strictly state-based and lend financial resources to other states who have, in many cases, squandered them and defaulted on repayments, without the international organization being able to do much more than provide a further loan. For all these reasons, talking of international organizations as mighty autonomous bodies is another empty myth, devoid of substance.
- The all-mighty multinational companies. The idea that multinationals are free to roam the earth, to install themselves wherever they like, to trade according to rules they devise; all these are mythical inventions that do not survive even a cursory analysis. First of all, in many countries foreign investment has been for decades forbidden or is still highly regulated [2001, Johan Norberg]. The so-called global companies are subject to national laws meaning that sometimes the lobbying (i.e. bribing) of national governments is necessary just to survive and operate. Secondly, the activities of multinational companies are continuously scrutinized both by investors (to spot economic risks) and by activists (to spot social wrongdoings). A boycott (see the Shell case related to the disposal of the Brent Spar platform in 1995) has an almost immediate impact in changing policies (which is highly unlikely in the case of a nation state). The reason is simple: it takes ages for a big company to build its name but it does not take very long to destroy it if it acts in such a way as to compromise its social respectability and economic reliability. The state does not have this sort of problem. It follows then that the all-mighty multinationals are, in too many cases, a figment of the collective imagination. Without the monopolistic backing of the state they have only the power conferred on them by the consumers in their specific domain of trade. Nothing more, nothing less.
The mystifications of the anti-globalization movement (^)
In its fight against globalization, the movement also uses arguments that
mystify the issues in the sense that, with an artful use of words and expressions,
it makes what is, in actual fact, quite acceptable and reasonable, appear
totally wrong and unsound.
This is especially evident in the charges levelled against multinational firms. Let us examine some of those arguments:
- Maximization of profits. In daily life, everybody's conscious economic actions are directed towards the maximization of benefits, for instance when selling or buying something. Clearly, we are not only economic calculating machines, but when economic transactions are concerned we act (or it is advisable to act) in that way. Buying at the highest price and selling to the lowest bidder might be commendably charitable behaviour but is not a sensible course of action in an economic context. So, to reproach a firm, an economic unit par excellence, with acting in a way that is proper to economic behaviour seems wholly unjustifiable. The deceitful emotional linking of magic terms (multinational-profit-maximization) makes what is in the nature of things appear as a crime. It would be much better to scrutinize carefully if these profits come from the sale of butter or bombs. This is the real issue.
To elaborate further on the theme, it is necessary to highlight the fact that the maximization of profits is taken for granted. In reality, this is not something that can always be achieved, given all the restrictions surrounding the reaching of that target; to name just a few: the behaviour of other individuals pursuing the same objective, the risks and uncertainties involved in every economic endeavour, the necessary skill and will needed just in order to stay afloat, and so on. Because of all this, in many cases, an economic unit (e.g. a big firm) might aim at maximizing security (continuity of existence) instead of maximizing profit. In general, an established firm goes for long-term profits (i.e. a steady continuous flow of profits) rather than for the maximum possible profit on a short-term basis.
Nevertheless, this idea of maximization of profits, even if it doesn't hold true in real life, remains a powerful propagandist tool. It evokes deep emotional feelings of repugnance because it has been causally associated with extraordinary exploitation of the work force, almost on a par with slavery. If somebody has a minimum of historical knowledge he/she should know that slavery was not at all conducive to the maximization of gains given the very low productivity and work carelessness on the part of most slaves. The same was true for forced labour or, more recently, when an industrial workforce totally hates and despises its job. The "human relations" and the "human resources" movements have shown, with a wealth of data, that individuals need to be motivated and well looked after in order to be highly productive (in terms of products and so of profits). Simple exploitation might appear a simple explanation for good profits but is only a very silly and misleading one.
- Minimization of labour costs. The multinational companies are accused of locating themselves where the salaries are lowest. This is a statement that needs to be examined carefully because, on its own, it does not stand. If it were true we would have solved, a long time ago, most problems deriving from lack of industrialization in many countries.
In theory, a firm left free to operate without inducements or restrictions of any sort, has an interest in installing its production in those areas where, taking into consideration all costs of transport (raw materials, finished goods), the productivity of the workforce (i.e. the relation between monetary value of production and monetary cost of wages) is highest.
Individuals without any productive skill or any regularity of working behaviour, or living in places with no infrastructures, no security for people and goods, in other words, situations of very low productivity and very high risk are not appealing to any firms even if the wages are rock bottom or the absolute lowest on the entire planet.
Moreover, even when and where this relocation of production towards less congested areas would make social and economic sense, it is not so widespread as claimed, being obstructed by powerful vested interests both in the so called centre (e.g. protecting current jobs through subsidies to the national industry) and on the periphery (e.g. creating obstacles to investment because local élites are afraid of the social upheaval that might be brought about by industrialization).
For these reasons, the statement that the multinationals transfer their production where the wages are lowest is just nationalistic nonsensical sloganeering. However, even assuming that the multinational firms install themselves where the salaries are lower (not lowest), this should be taken as a positive aspect of their behaviour and certainly not as a reproachable action. This behaviour of the multinationals (which unfortunately does not correspond so often to reality) should not be reprimanded at all for various reasons:
- moral reasons. To move production towards areas where the wages are lower should be considered a meritorious and progressive way of spreading industrialization (assuming that we are in favour of it), and of improving the economic standard of life in backward regions.
- social reasons. The transferral of some production from highly congested places to un-industrialized regions makes possible a social re-generation of both areas, from the point of view of nature and culture.
- economic reasons. To move production to where the labour costs are lower (given a comparatively acceptable level of productivity) means that, because of the decline in the cost of production associated with universal competition, low-income consumers everywhere in the world can afford goods that were once reserved for the well off or the middle class.
- To employ children and women in the factories. The employment of children and women in factories conveys, once again, the images of the worst exploitation of the Industrial Revolution and appears as a phenomenon indefensible from every point of view. At least until we examine the matter a bit deeper, starting from the situation of many children and women in the underdeveloped countries.
In those countries there are some children who live in the streets, begging or doing anything in order to survive; there are some women working very hard in the fields; they are the real breadwinners, exploited by the family circle, especially by men. For these reasons a job in a multinational firm, where the wages are generally higher than elsewhere, would be a dream come true, a powerful first step towards emancipation and empowerment. Unfortunately, the idea of leaving the rural village to work in a factory miles away is presented to the women as a treason to family traditions and to the needs of the family itself used to subjugate the freedom of the individual to the exigencies of the group. For this reason all sorts of rumours and lies are spread concerning those women working outside their close circle (family, neighbourhood); it is even assumed that they have become prostitutes [2001, Johan Norberg].
A similar position, only better presented, has been taken on board by many critics of globalization who, in their writings [see 2000, Naomi Klein] complain about the fact that factories attract women away from their village or that many children work in industries all over the world. This apparently humanitarian stance has led, for example, the American Congress to intervene, threatening the prohibition of imports from countries with factories employing children. The result has been the sacking of thousand of children in the Bangladeshi textile industry and in the Nepalese carpet industry [2001, Johan Norberg]. Or, it has led the French government, at the time of the 1998 Football World Cup, to ban soccer balls sewn in Pakistan in factories employing many children. In these and other cases, most of the children that have been dismissed have subsequently moved into prostitution, or begging and stealing in the streets, while some have stayed hidden doing even more poorly paid jobs in even worse conditions [2001, Tomas Larsson]. All thanks to the "humanitarian" impulse of well fed bureaucrats and politicians in the West under the stimulus of very superficial and very ignorant protesters. To describe all this there is no more appropriate expression than the old saying: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Clearly, hidden behind humanitarian reasons there is, most often, the ever present mercantilistic motive of protecting national producers and the national market. If politicians and protesters were really concerned with the universal human condition and not with their electoral power base or their narcissistic false humanitarianism, they would discover that, where trade has been liberalized, child labour has decreased as producers have been able to allocate their goods within a bigger market obtaining better returns, hiring adult workers at higher wages [see 2002, Dexter Samida].
- To be more powerful than many nation states. This idea derives from the fact that the budget of some multinationals is bigger than that of some nation states. But this does not say very much about the amount of power held and exerted unless we fall into the silly trap of identifying power with money. If this were true, the richest person on earth would be also the most powerful; if we have just a superficial knowledge of history, this is total nonsense as shown by the fate of rich Jews, exiled or gassed by a penniless failed ex-painter turned politician.
The truth of the matter is that multinationals are not free to invest in every country even if they wish to (up to 1998, direct foreign investment was still forbidden in 131 out of 161 developing countries) [2001, Johan Norberg]; where they can operate they do it at the risk of being expropriated by the nation state as happened not infrequently during the '60s and the '70s; they have to follow the bureaucratic (often senseless) rules established by the nation state and, what is more important, they have to gain the benevolence of the ruling politicians, i.e. greasing palms just in order to work without many impediments. No wonder that there is no race to locate in many states, as the likely costs might exceed the possible profits.
However, the most important implicit assumption contained in this statement is that multinationals are not run by democratically elected leaders, while this is the case for many nation states. This formalistic argument totally misses the point as far as real control and influence, coming from the people affected, is concerned.
With regard to a multinational, the consumers can exert, every day, some power through their buying decisions. This is especially true if the multinational's brand is easily distinguishable and so also easily targetable. The same consumers as electors have, by contrast, only the possibility to designate their masters once every 4-5 years.
Moreover, if those consumers as social activists are against the decision of a multinational, a well-concerted boycott brings results in a matter of days or weeks. Instead, when an embargo on a country is declared, people can grow old and still see no results or, rather, the paradoxical results are those of giving more leverage to the clique in power who can grow rich charging exorbitant prices for scarce smuggled goods.
All in all, many indictments against multinational firms are only a vapour
wave that obfuscates the eyes and the minds; they do not go to the core
of the matter, which is to ascertain if these firms are:
- monopolistic (barring competition, relying on state protectionism)
- obnoxious (making useless or harmful production)
- polluting (discharging toxic substances into the environment)
It is on these MOP (monopolistic, obnoxious, polluting) firms, be they local, national or multinational, that everybody's attention and struggle should be focused until we mop them up from the face of the earth.
The omissions of the anti-globalization movement (^)
Besides the myths and mystifications, there are also strange omissions
on the part of the anti-globalization movement that need to be pointed
out because they reveal, once more, its illiberal attitudes (mercantilism)
and inclinations (pro-statism).
Multinational firms and international organizations are accused of pushing for policies of free trade. The consequences, according to the anti-globalization movement, are the following:
- To widen the gap between rich and poor. The problem with this charge, even if proved true, is that it passes over in silence the real issue which is to see if free trade improves the conditions of everybody and especially of the worst off. The problem is not to ascertain if the rich are becoming even richer but if the poor are bettering their condition and are getting out of poverty. Paradoxically, the envy-based logic of the anti-globalizers could lead to accepting a worsening of everybody's situation, provided that the gap is reduced. What they implicitly and paradoxically would not object to is, then, a race to the bottom that is the surest and easiest way to reduce the gap.
Having dealt with this point theoretically, it is necessary to stress that, actually, policies of trade liberalization have permitted millions of individuals, especially in Asia (China, India, South Korea, Singapore, etc.), to leave behind poverty and to embark on a process of social and economic emancipation [2001, Johan Norberg]. In this respect, the Maoist dream of making almost every village in China capable of relying on its own steel production resulted in a colossal waste of energy, squandering of resources, famine, and 30 millions dying of starvation between 1958 and 1961; on the other hand, the process of liberalization started in 1978 has led to the multiplication of trading and has enabled Chinese farmers to double their income within 6 years. The first experiment might have reduced (or even abolished) the gap between rich and poor because the most indigent had died and everybody was worse off; the second may have increased it, but this should not be relevant for anyone other than those with envious and devious minds.
- To destroy the environment. The accusation that some multinational industries pollute the environment (true in some cases) should be more appropriately addressed to the nation states, which pretend to be in charge of protecting the environment, singly or in association. In actual fact, the nation states are the main culprits as:
- direct polluters: witness the situation in the ex Soviet Union or in many underdeveloped countries where the main polluters are state owned or state controlled enterprises.
- protectors of polluters: the producers can pollute only courtesy of state laws (or state misapplication of international protocols), state concessions, state rights of exploitation, state-granted commercial licenses.
Contrary to the belief of some anti-globalizers, research has shown that, generally, multinational firms are more in compliance with ecological standards than local firms, due to factors of international image and to their more up-to-date production methods. [2000, David Wheeler].
To put an intolerable weight on the shoulders of the poorest(debt repayment, cuts in state expenditures, etc.). A strange aspect in all the discourses of the anti-globalization movement is that the policies of the states in the backward countries are rarely questioned or are mentioned only incidentally when the accumulation of debts is discussed. The reckless borrowing and subsequent squandering of financial resources are factors almost completely ignored, while the discourse is focused on the burden of interest charges and the conditions imposed for receiving further loans. The ensuing emotional picture distracts the attention from the real problem, which is the fact that the political élites in both industrialized and backwards countries have used people's money to support each other and to perpetuate situations of alienation, corruption and oppression.
Moreover, what is strangely omitted is the fact that 41 of the most indebted countries receive in financial aid more than they pay in interest for the debt. This means that the interest is entirely paid by the donors [2000, World Bank].
Furthermore, a large chunk of state expenditure in very backward countries dominated by illiberal regimes goes for the army, the bureaucracy, the feeding of the political elite. No wonder that those regions (in sub-Saharan Africa) that have received most aid have remained the most backward. So, the notion of cuts in state expenditure does not mean very much with reference to social investment because this was either almost non-existent or it could still be financed through the state budget if parasitic strata were swept away and wasteful allocations abolished [see 2002, Brink Lindsey].
- To obliterate cultural identities. The so-called homogenization of cultural identities (or cultural imperialism or americanization) is a phenomenon that is:
- wrongly anticipated. To maintain that there is a Western homogeneous culture and that buying Western goods or watching Western movies makes a person westernized is equivalent to believing that there is a homogeneous Indian culture and that if we keep going to an Indian restaurant and buying Indian goods we are bound to become perfect Indians. Unfortunately the human mind is not so flexible as to allow people to be such chameleonic individuals. Besides that, people could have common tastes without being or becoming identical with each other.
- highly exaggerated. The dynamic between local culture and other external cultural expressions is much more complex than is assumed by the critics of globalization. International producers and distributors of goods and services are very conscious of it and so they try to adapt themselves to the local cultures. Besides, people themselves re-adapt the goods and messages of the global producer to their specific tastes and needs. It is a process of creolization that has been present at all times and in all places [see 2000, John Beynon and David Dunkerley eds., Part B: Globalization and Culture].
- mistakenly attacked. The cultural identities that are threatened with disappearance through a global flow of cultural messages are, in most cases, invented national identities that have been manufactured and quite often imposed by the nation states. Their extinction is a very healthy process because it might allow the re-emergence of local cultures within a global experience, as should have always been the case in the global village of planet earth.
On the whole, the unity and variety of human cultures get strengthened by the freedom of exchange and by the free flow of messages. Unifying cultural universal pluralities is a more desirable reality than upholding different clashing national identities.
The most serious omission in all the critical remarks of the anti-globalization
movement concerns an actor whose role is either strangely minimized or
whose behaviour is intentionally whitewashed. This actor is the nation
Even when the nation state appears under attack by the anti-globalizers it is only a specific government that is questioned, as if the problem was not the state itself (bureaucracy, military apparatus, parasitic strata, etc.) but a particular ruler.
This is because the state, in the mind of the people of the so-called right and left, is still considered the irreplaceable fixture and the indispensable structure of social life. Their (conscious or unconscious) belief is that, without the state, civilization will crumble and society will fall apart. The equation state=civilization=society is so firmly entrenched in their brain that it is not surprising that the entity "state" should be omitted from their discourses as being directly responsible for the predicament that afflicts so many people.
In fact the anti-globalization movement considers the state more a victim of corporate greed (a "captive state") than a cunning trickster. And this is very odd because even in the tales of some anti-globalizers strange things emerge [see 2000, George Monbiot]. For instance, here we have the state collecting taxes without providing services and letting others (the so called private sector) intervene and charge for what has already been paid for through taxation. There we have the city council, which, after deciding on the destruction of inner city areas, gets the private sector to do the dirty job and takes its cut of the gains. Almost everywhere we have the state putting everything up for sale, clean air included, and at the same time making itself appear as a victim even when it is the only real culprit.
The good points of the anti-globalization movement (^)
Notwithstanding myths, mystifications and omissions, not everything in
the anti-globalization camp should be dismissed as garbage. There are some
aspects dealt with by the movement that are real and relevant and demand
all our attention.
Generally they are points that are treated also by other movements who do not qualify as anti-global. Nevertheless, it is meritorious that some fringes of the anti-globalization movement have added their voice, in particular taking position in favour of:
- The protection of the environment
- The betterment of working conditions
- The freedom of expression and movement.
In this essay, the critique of anti-globalization positions certainly
does not involve these issues. In fact, they do not lead at all
to a rejection of globalism but to its exact opposite. Nevertheless
sometimes they are taken as pretexts for introducing protectionism, granting
monopolies and upholding parasitism.
This is, for instance, the case if we examine some proposals put forward by the anti-globalization movement that might appear very sensitive and sensible, but only to a very superficial eye.
The bad remedies of the anti-globalization movement (^)
Various components of the anti-globalization movement have advocated a
series of objectives and measures that, in their opinion, would redress
the balance of power and wealth in favour of the weakest/poorest countries.
The main points come under the following labels:
- Fair Trade
- Debt Relief
- Tobin Tax
We will examine briefly each one to see if the proposals they contain go, really, in the right direction of promoting individual and social development.
- Fair Trade
The expression "Fair Trade" is very appealing and convincing and nothing can be said against it if it were not for the fact that it has been taken in opposition to "Free Trade." The anti-globalizers see "Fair Trade" as the proper antithesis to "Free Trade" and are in favour of the former as against the latter.
The concept of fair trade is not a new one and its origins do not bode well for the people in the countries the anti-globalizers want to support. In 1881, some politicians and businessmen set up in England the "Fair Trade League" that advocated the putting up of tariffs to protect British industries against competition from the emerging industrial powerhouses of Germany and the United States [1951, Keith Hutchinson]. One of the most vociferous exponents of the League was Joseph Chamberlain, the champion of the nationalistic and imperialistic policies carried out by the English state at the end of the 19th century. He was in favour of a system of protective and preferential tariffs to guard the empire against goods originating from other countries, a policy in total opposition to the previous open door one.
was an economy on the rise the battle cry was "free trade"; when other countries were emerging industrially and surpassing her, the battle cry changed to that of "fair trade." This slogan was not popular at the start but eventually succeeded, as shown by the fact that Import Duties were introduced in 1932 by a conservative government presided over by Neville Chamberlain, son of Joseph.
Then, on the basis of historical events, it could be said that "fair trade" is a euphemism employed by old industrialized nations (instead of the more vulgar term protectionism) as soon as they see a comparative decline in their economic predominance; and that protectionism is the ever recurrent instrument used by these nations to (try to) keep new emerging ones in a subordinate position, holding back their energies for fear of losing power and wealth. It is not by chance that the "fair trade" slogan has been manufactured in the West and repeated there more often than elsewhere. Again, it is not by chance that one of the most popular texts of the anti-globalizers [2000, Naomi Klein] starts with mourning for the loss of the Toronto garment district, the industry having moved outside Canada to less industrialized and more competitive areas.
"Fair trade not free trade" is then the position of those in the old industrialized affluent countries that have lost energy and creativity and wish to stop the clock or to put it back to when their parents or grand-parents were the holders of power and wealth. This position is shared by the cleptocracies and bureaucracies in the backward countries that are afraid that industrialization, once left free to develop, will give strength and self-confidence to individuals and will encourage them to put an end to corruption and constrictions. This might explain why they restrict industrial activities to specific enclaves (Export Processing Zones) under their strict control.
"Fair trade is free trade" is, on the contrary, the position of those energetic and creative individuals, especially women, who, everywhere in the world, are fighting to emerge against all human manufactured obstacles, mostly put up by national and international bureaucracies. To mention just one example, Nancy Abeid Arahamane, a Mauritanian woman, had found a German importer who wanted to buy the camel cheese produced in her dairy in Nouakchott, Mauritania. What she didn't know was that without a special directive from the Super State Europe, ratified by the Parliaments of all the states of the Union, she could not export camel cheese [11/5/2001, Herald Tribune]. This and other cases (textiles, shoes, bikes, agricultural products, steel, etc.) represent a damning indictment of the policies of all those states that put up barriers of any type, are supported by mystifying slogans such as the "fair trade" one
and, to clear their bad conscience and to keep everybody quiet, advocate
economic aid for backward countries.
And this leads us to another bad remedy of the anti-globalization movement.
- Debt Relief
During the last twenty years of the 20th century the debt of many backward countries mounted to incredible heights and then prompted the intervention of financial institutions, political bodies, charitable organizations.
The spectrum of measures put forward ranges from the rescheduling of the debts, to their reduction, all the way to their total cancellation. This last is the position taken, for instance, by the Catholic Church and other Christian confessions. From a religious, and especially from a Catholic perspective, this is a perfectly understandable request because it is in line with the idea of giving away without receiving back. And even if the funds provided have been badly used, the Catholic attitude calls for forgiveness.
To those who accept entirely the view of giving and forgiving, always and everywhere, there is nothing to be objected to as far as debt relief is concerned. On the other hand, if the attention is focused on development, it is very important to see if the resources provided have been well employed or squandered in parasitic uses and absurd endeavours, and if it is advisable to transfer/loan further resources and to whom.
The problem arises from the fact that even many anti-globalizers
who do not share the Catholic attitude of giving and forgiving
have, nevertheless, totally embraced the debt relief cause without
questioning the role played and the results produced by financial aid in
the second half of the 20th century. If they had paid the scantest attention
they would have realized that financial aid has been the main obstacle
to the development of individuals in backward countries. This policy has,
instead, achieved two hideous results:
- to maintain criminal regimes and parasitic cliques in power
- to withhold self-realization and self-esteem.
For these reasons, it is quite unbelievable to discover over
and over again that many anti-globalizers are not only in favour
of wiping out the debt accumulated by these parasitic cliques
(and this could be understandable because it is paid even by those who
have not profited from it) but also of the continuation and enlargement
of financial aid and, what is extraordinary indeed, without any condition
attached to it in terms of a balanced budget.
This is like writing a blank cheque to a scoundrel managing an orphanage, letting him do whatever he likes and then pretending to have helped people in need. To keep giving financial aid to states is the surest way to keep cheaters and stealers in control, always and everywhere. In fact, analyses have shown a strong correlation between aid received and social and economic abuses. The most indebted states are also those with the most illiberal and corrupt regimes [2002, Fraser Institute]. So, if these views and practices continue to prevail, aid should be taken as the acronym of Acquired Instilled Dependency or Away from Independence and Development. The fact that the anti-globalization movement is dead keen on pursuing this road to disaster is indicated clearly by another proposal, which is another bad remedy.
- Tobin Tax
The Tobin tax, from the name of the economist that suggested it, is a tax on financial transactions. The aim is to control/reduce speculative movements of financial resources and to provide states with additional sums to employ for the development of the backward regions. Once again, laudable intentions hide very dubious outcomes, to say the least. First of all, we should be wary of putting the state in charge of distinguishing between unproductive speculations and useful investments; for this reason, if future flows of financial resources find it convenient to go towards less industrialized countries, the Tobin tax might act as a tax on investments in those very regions that are supposed to be helped. Secondly, the tax requires a large number of controls affecting every international transaction; this would mean the complete triumph of the state bureaucracies over entrepreneurship and productive energies. Finally, the idea that the revenue collected by the states (the estimates vary from 10 to 100 billion dollars a year) will be transferred to other states which then are supposed to promote development is, on the basis of previous experience, sheer madness. We would then find ourselves in the worst possible scenario where the money collected will be used, even more than now, for keeping in power despotic rulers and for keeping down the despondent ruled.
On the whole, the proposals of the anti-globalizers would make the "race to the bottom" they are imputing to globalization come true, but it would come as a result of their own policies. This diabolical dynamic has already been tried and if we keep forgetting the past we are bound to repeat the same awful mistakes.
The presumed lineages of the anti-globalization movement (^)
The anti-globalization movement comprises people from many different political
backgrounds and with different social and economic conditions.
To use the ambiguous but still current label of right wing and left wing, under the same banners of anti-globalization we can find people from the extreme right to the extreme left.
While it is easily understandable that nationalistic fringes (right) are against globalism, it is almost impossible to grasp how people with an outlook in favour of internationalism (left) could be against globalism.
For this reason it is necessary to refer, albeit briefly, to the writings of two amongst the major figures of the socialist and anarchist movements to ascertain if their ideas can give any support to the positions of the anti-globalizers.
- Karl Marx
If we examine the most famous political text of Marx and Engels, the Communist Manifesto, we are struck by the celebration of the industrial bourgeoisie as the maker of the world market.
"The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production, the intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arise a world literature." [1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels]
This almost rapturous celebration of the revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie
and this exaltation of the world market derives from the fact that, according
to Marx and Engels, the post-capitalist society they envisage is the result
of the capitalist mode of production being developed to its utmost and
spread all over the world.
The inexorable progress of capitalism is considered the essential premiss for the overcoming of capitalism itself and for the emergence of the socialist society. Against it stand, according to Marx and Engels, some reactionary forces that are falsely considered socialist only because they are against the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels call this anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeoisie movement, feudal socialism.
"Feudal socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart's core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history. The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner. But the people, so often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coats of arms, and deserted with loud and irreverent laughter." [1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels]
Unfortunately, Marx and Engels were not right when they assumed that the
world market was an already assured reality and that the feudal parasitic
classes, namely, in our age, politicians, bureaucrats and professional
categories with vested protected interests, were on the wane. In actual
fact, they had and still have many followers and much influence on people's
minds. They have even used Marx himself for their own ends, which are in
complete opposition to Marx's original message; this is achieved by distorting
Marx's general conception, totally disregarding and discarding some of
his positions that are a bit disturbing.
To some professed Marxists in the anti-globalization movement it would probably come as a shock to know that Marx was in favour of:
- Free trade.
"Mais en général, de nos jours, le système protecteur est conservateur, tandis que le système du libre-échange est destructeur. Il dissout les anciennes nationalités et pousse à l'extrême l'antagonisme entre la bourgeoisie et le prolétariat. En un mot, le système de la liberté commerciale hâte la révolution sociale. C'est seulement dans ce sens révolutionnaire, Messieurs, que je [Karl Marx] vote en faveur du libre-échange." ("But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.") [1848, Karl Marx]
- Child labour
"From the Factory system budded, as Robert Owen has shown us in detail, the germ of the education of the future, an education that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings." [1867, Karl Marx].
"... with a strict regulation of the working time according to the different age groups and other safety measures for the protection of children, an early combination of productive labour with education is one of the most potent means for the transformation of present-day society." [1875, Karl Marx]
- Extensive mechanization
Marx championed the introduction of all technological innovations that could make work more productive, shorten the working day and replace the human being in the most harsh and dull tasks. This view is summed up in the statement that "in a communist society the machines would play a bigger role than in the bourgeois society." [1867, Karl Marx]
These are ideas that have been completely obliterated and, worst of all,
attributed to the opponents of socialism and so condemned and fought against.
Conscious of the distortions operated on his thought by ardently professed Marxists while he was still alive, it is not surprising that Marx himself seems to have declared: "I am not Marxist."
What can be said with a certain confidence is that the anti-globalizers are not Marxists, whatever they might think and proclaim.
- Piotr Kropotkin
The anarchist is an individual for whom the concepts of fatherland and foreigners have no meaning whatsoever. National borders and national passports are, for an anarchist, idiotic inventions of the nation state, that is, products of a monopolist and protectionist racket ruled by a gang of scoundrels.
For this reason, when the state figures (politicians, bureaucrats, police, etc.) denounce the presence of anarchist elements in the anti-globalization movement they are only using a passe-partout word aimed at implicating the historical enemies of the state, ignoring that anarchists are, by definition, in favour of globalism (free circulation of individuals, ideas, goods), seeing in it the most powerful way towards the abolition of the state and the most appropriate and natural condition for the development of every human being.
For the same reason, any anti-globalizer who declares to be an anarchist might say so, perhaps, because he finds the word anarchy appealing, but he/she has not a clue as to what anarchists stand for. He/she is a very confused person who does not really know what he/she is doing or talking about.
To realize that this is the case it is sufficient to explore the writings of one of the most cultivated anarchists: Piotr Kropotkin. His conception of social organization was to influence many of the best minds of the 20th century (amongst them, Patrick Geddes and Lewis Mumford).
On the basis of the industrial development of the 19th century Kropotkin, like Marx and Engels, was (too) confident that barriers had been removed. He saw that
"industries of all kind decentralise and are scattered all over the globe; and everywhere a variety, an integrated variety, of trades grows, instead of specialization." [1906, Piotr Kropotkin]
According to Kropotkin there is no need to introduce tariffs in order
to make industrialization possible. In fact, "capital taking no cognizance of fatherlands, German and English capitalists, accompanied by engineers and foremen of their own nationalities, have introduced in Russia and in Poland manufactories whose goods compete in excellence with the best from England. If customs were abolished tomorrow, manufacture would only gain by it." [1906, Piotr Kropotkin]
For Kropotkin the spreading of small and medium size industries is hampered not by technical costs of production but by difficulties in commercialization. He is for setting up cooperatives of small producers for the sale of their goods, while he certainly does not favour the putting up of protective barriers that would make commercialization even more difficult for the small producers, too weak and dispersed to lobby successfully for their rights.
He envisages universal development leading to the formation of regional communities that become self-sufficient for the basic products of life.
"The present tendency of economic development in the world is ... to induce more and more ... every region, taken in its geographical sense, to rely chiefly upon a home production of all the chief necessaries of life. Not to reduce, I mean, the world-exchange: it may still grow in bulk; but to limit it to the exchange of what really must be exchanged, and, at the same time, immensely to increase the exchange of novelties, produce of local or national art, new discoveries and inventions, knowledge and ideas." [1899, Piotr Kropotkin]
These are all very interesting positions that have nothing to do with
protectionism and the control of trade by any institutional body, and certainly
not by the state as advocated by the anti-globalizers. There is also no
place whatsoever for the distribution of subsidies to agriculture. What
Kropotkin stresses is food self-sufficiency that results from the dynamics
of free production and free exchanges. What we instead have now, following
the "regulatory" intervention of the state, is over-production of food in certain areas, that is stocked or destroyed or dumped on some regions at very low prices, damaging the cultivation and commercialization of crops of other areas. In other words, the exact opposite of Kropotkin's view, and all thanks to state intervention.
Kropotkin is also in favour of the replacement of human workers by machines.
"Whenever a saving of human labour can be obtained by means of a machine, the machine is welcome and will be resorted to." [1899, Piotr Kropotkin]
He underlines the fact that, at the same time
"hand-work very probably will extend its domain in the artistic finishing of many things which are now made entirely in the factory; and it will always remain an important factor in the growth of thousands of young and new trades." [1899, Piotr Kropotkin]
Kropotkin has also been the most consistent and intelligent advocate of
the union of manual and intellectual work in the education of children
in order to achieve what he calls "l'éducation intégrale." [1899, Piotr Kropotkin]
All these are crucial differences between the perspective of the anti-globalizers, based on the defence of state controls and state intervention [see especially the writings of Susan George] and the anarchist vision that wants the pulling down of all restrictions to the spreading of activities and exchanges (except those justifiable from an ecological point of view), and certainly does not rely on any state intervention.
What can be said again with a certain confidence is that the anti-globalizers are not anarchists, whatever they might think and proclaim or, better, whatever the police of the national states might proclaim and give us to believe.
The real lineages of the anti-globalization movement (^)
The positions of two of the major exponents of the socialist and anarchist
movements are then in stark opposition to the ideology of the anti-globalizers.
For this reason it is necessary to identify the real lineage of the movement in order to avoid any ambiguity and misunderstanding regarding their real aims.
Anti-globalization being a reaction to political liberalism, economic internationalism and cultural cosmopolitanism, it is necessary to look amongst critics of these tendencies in order to find the real sources of most of what is said and done by the movement.
Three figures are here taken as representative of the anti-globalization movement. This does not intend to suggest that they are the inspirers of the movement but only that many arguments put forward by the movement can be traced to the thinking of these scholars.
These figures are:
- Ferdinand Lassalle (political nationalism)
- Friedrich List List (economic nationalism)
- Johann Gottfried von Herder (cultural nationalism)
- Ferdinand Lassalle (political nationalism)
Ferdinand Lassalle was a leading exponent of the German workers movement around the middle of the 19th century.
His political thinking is centred on the impotence of the workers to better their economic situation (given the existence of an "iron law of wages") and the importance attributed to an external agent, the state, for the emancipation of the working class.
Because of the role given to the state, Lassalle's socialism is purely nation based. Marx remarked on this aspect when he wrote: "Lassalle, in opposition to the Communist Manifesto and to all earlier socialism, conceived the worker's movement from the narrowest national standpoint." [1875, Karl Marx]
In another passage he reproached the programme of the German Worker's party (whose policies where based on Lassalle's ideas) with being "even infinitely below that of the Free Trade Party." [1875, Karl Marx]
In Lassalle, as in the case of modern day anti-globalizers, we find the fear of the world market accused of controlling the life of the workers ("the labourers cannot understand the reason why their individual condition is conditioned by the situation of the world market.") [1862, Ferdinand Lassalle]
Interpreting reality from a different perspective, Marx saw in the formation of the world market the necessary condition for world revolution, making it possible for the workers to take control of their own lives.
Lassalle's major text is a confutation of Frédéric Bastiat (a witty and passionate advocate of free trade), and the exposition of a policy in which the state is deputed to supervise production and distribution. For Lassalle, free universal exchange is the source of over-production and commercial crises. That is why the state has to intervene.
In the Gotha Programme of the German worker's party, strongly inspired by Lassalle's ideas, one of the key objectives is the establishment of the "free state." Marx would make a total mockery of this political aim, declaring explicitly: "Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it, and today too, the forms of state are more free or less free to the extent that they restrict the 'freedom of the state'." [1875, Karl Marx]
In short, two main points of the programme of Lassalle, the rejection of free trade and the approval of state intervention, are advocated also by the anti-globalization movement, within an outlook that can be defined, in both cases, as National Socialism.
- Friedrich List (economic nationalism)
Friedrich List was a self educated economist who pleaded for the introduction of tariffs, maintaining that this would allow the establishment of industries in those countries (notably, Germany) that had started later (with respect to England) on the path to industrialization.
His position is not at all one of generalized and permanent protectionism. In fact, he was in favour of the abolition of tariffs between the German states in order to set up a large free trade zone. Moreover, he was against putting up tariffs for agricultural products. Finally, the protection accorded to industries was not to last indefinitely but only the (short) time necessary to strengthen them in order to compete on an equal basis.
Nevertheless, industrial protectionism remains associated with the name of List and every additional qualifying point has faded into the distance.
There are two aspects of List's thinking that have been taken on board by some strands of the anti-globalization movement. They are:
- The opposition between the political economy (centered on the nation state) and the cosmopolitan economy (based on the entire world). This supposed opposition between nation and world makes List declare that "what is safe and useful in world trade, in general, can harm and be damaging for the national trade, and vice versa." [1841, Friedrich List] List's proposals are expressly centered on the nation and in favour of the growth of the nation ("the welfare of the nation"; "the national interests"), to which every economic aspect is subordinate. This point is shared by many anti-globalizers who would agree that "the government is not only authorized, but obliged to regulate, in the interest of the nation, a trade that is in itself harmless." [1841, Friedrich List]
- The protection of so-called "infant industries." List's argument, not always presented in a consistent way, is that new industries need protective barriers so that they can grow strong in order to be able to compete on the world market. However, he is not in favour of long lasting tariffs and, what might seem strange, he does not recommend putting up heavy protective tariffs for industries at their start. He expressly says: "When the manufactures are in their initial stage of development, protective tariffs have to be very low; they have to be raised little by little in relation to the increase in the country of intellectual and material capitals." In fact, a non industrialized region needs to be open in order to attract industries from the outside, not to discourage them with barriers of any type.
Having said this, the image conveyed up to now by interpreters and followers and, in some passages, by List himself, is that of industries conceived as babies who need strong protection at birth and right until they are able to stand on their own feet. This image is very appealing but it is doubly wrong. In fact, it does not apply to industry for two major historical reasons:
- In many cases, the late comers have been able to learn from trials and errors committed by the first comer; for this reason, industries freshly formed or established in a new region can introduce the latest technological equipment without the need (and cost) of passing through the various technological phases. That is why, for instance, old industrial nations accuse the new ones of dumping. The explanation is simple: the so-called infant industries come to life already well equipped for competition, without any dead weight of the past.
- Wherever and whenever industries are protected they are most easily inclined to assume the bad habit of requiring continuous protection. Past experience shows that infant industries under state tutelage remain industries in a permanent infant state. This is an almost universal law that applies also to pampered and spoiled children. In the case of industry, the qualification infant is more important than the noun industry; they are treated like infants that are not likely ever to become a strong autonomous entity.
Economic nationalism, based on state protectionism, leads to another inspirer of the anti-globalization movement.
- Johann Gottfried von Herder (cultural nationalism)
Johann Gottfried von Herder is remembered as one of the first voices to praise popular cultures as possessing, each one, some specific characteristics worthy of respect. The merit of this view is, nevertheless, reduced or even cancelled when it is upheld in opposition to cosmopolitanism and in conjunction with political and economic nationalism. In this case it gives rise to cultural nationalism, that is:
- the pretension of the existence of a national culture even where only different local traditions existed.
- the protection of these presumed national cultures against so-called foreign influxes.
As a matter of fact, what happened in history was that, out of many local cultural expressions, one national culture was manufactured. This was made possible through the imposition, on everybody living on a certain territory, of some dominant traditions, the eradication of all the others and the exclusion of external cultural contributions as if they were contagious viruses.
This process is most clearly evident with respect to the language. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, for instance, delivered his "Reden an die deutsche Nation" (1807-1808) ["The Addresses to the German Nation"] putting forward the thesis that the presence of foreign vocables in a language can corrupt the genuine morality of a people. Friedrich Jahn seems to have stated in a public speech: "he who allowed his daughter to learn French was delivering her up to prostitution." [1960, Elie Kedourie]
During the first half of the 20th century these ideas found implementation in the cultural policies of many nation states, not only dictatorial ones such as fascism and national socialism, but also the so-called democratic republics such as the French state with its measures against linguistic minorities (e.g. the Corsicans).
In contemporary life, again with reference to France, these ideas have appeared in the political stances of the former Minister of Culture, the socialist Jack Lang, with his defense of the French language, French cinema, French music and so on.
The anti-globalizers have incorporated into their thinking this
aspect of defending national cultures (supposing that something
like this could or should exist) and protecting national identities
(accepting this to be a meaningful cause). Unfortunately, most of them
have not grasped the fact that
- culture is not a territorial phenomenon, limited by national borders, to be kept protected from "external" changes;
- culture is not a static phenomenon, but, on the contrary, an ever-changing one that cannot remain the same (identidem) if it is worth its name.
For these reasons a national cultural identity is a meaningless
expression, besides being a non-existent reality that fails to
take into account either local traditions or global attitudes.
On the whole, the points of reference of the anti-globalization movement belong to a world made of nation states; the aim (conscious or unconscious) of its promoters and followers is then to buttress the nation state, which is at risk of disappearance by the advancement of the global village; and this would be highly damaging for those who have some privileges to lose or are simply afraid that they will be on the losing side.
Feelings, Figures, Facts of the anti-globalization movement (^)
The anti-globalization movement, as previously said, is a very miscellaneous one, inclusive of the most disparate political positions, all united by the defense of the nation state (welfare state, closed state, protectionist state). In order to complete this very sketchy picture of the movement it is necessary now to highlight some feelings, figures and facts that are related to the movement and to the whole scenario where the actions of the movement take place.
The feelings are drawn from the positions held by many people in the movement and by their way of reasoning. Very often these feelings would be openly denied even when it is made clear that they derive necessarily from the chosen perspective. However, as long as those views remain, so do the (unconscious) feelings logically and factually associated with them, namely:
- Envy. The stress on the gap between rich and poor instead of the scrutiny of the reality, to ascertain if the poor or if some poor (and, in this case, which poor) are bettering their situation, reveals a mentality based on envy. This is the same narrow-minded sentiment that brings somebody to believe (rightly or wrongly) that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. This is often compounded by the conviction that this is the result of dirty tricks or devious plots on the part of our neighbours. To focus on the rich would be more than appropriate whenever their wealth comes from exploitation of the poor; but in this case the issue to be tackled should be the exploitation itself. Given the way this argument is presented, it must be pointed out that there are many well-off people (for instance those living in the Scandinavian countries) that have built their wealth relying on their own energy and creativity. All this gets totally ignored in the discourse and that is why envy is the appropriate term to define the sentiment behind the gap argument. Envy is compounded by another despicable feeling.
- Greed. The personal situation is not seen in relation to the satisfaction of healthy needs in an appropriate way (quantitatively and qualitatively) but in relation to the continuous accumulation of wealth. We are referring, in this case, to people in rich nations and to their complaint that globalization is making them poorer (less rich) or is slowing down the growth of their income. The greed factor is behind many anti-globalizers' discourses wherever terms like "de-industrialization" or expressions like the "race to the bottom" pop up. Some people in industrialized countries are afraid that their accumulation of riches cannot grow indefinitely, and this introduces a further feeling present in the movement.
- Fear. The anti-globalization movement is the most evident expression of the fear by the rich world of new upsetting dynamics. When the anti-globalizers talk of downsizing and delocalization they refer to something that affects the rich world. These phenomena, which might contribute to "the rise from the bottom" of the people in the backward countries (cheaper industrial goods, more opportunities for earning a living) are seen as a menace to the affluence and security of the old industrialized countries and so to their more or less affluent people. If we compound all this with the fear of the so-called foreign people who are said to come to steal their jobs and to modify their way of life, we have the clear picture of the paranoia that affects the most nationalistic fringes of the anti-globalization movement. This attitude of fear has spread, willingly or unwillingly, to the entire movement, witness the use, by both left and right-wing parties, of terms like "clandestines" or "illegal immigrants" with reference to individuals from non-European countries, whose movement is severely curtailed.
These feelings have been manufactured and transmitted by a series of figures who mainly inhabit in the national political arena.
The main figures who characterize the anti-globalization movement are:
- The sensationalist journalist. Without the heavy intervention of the mass media which have acted as a sound multiplier, the movement would not have come so fast to prominence. For instance, the Seattle demonstration against the WTO was a feast of journalists talking about photographers who were taking pictures of cameramen who were filming demonstrators [see Time Magazine, December 13, 1999]. It was an exemplary case of the spectacularization of politics. No movement has received such a vast global exposure in such a short time as the anti-globalization movement.
- The state-related personage. The movement, especially in the USA, has been fuelled by politicians (e.g. Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan) and trade unionists fearful of a flight of jobs to less developed areas (for instance to Mexico after the introduction of the NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement). As a matter of fact, the '90s saw a spectacular economic performance by people in the United States, flatly disproving the "race to the bottom" thesis [1999, Michael Cox and Richard Alm]. However, it is true that obsolete and uncompetitive industries have gone out of business (as they usually do) and this has been enough to 'activate' those who have something to lose by the advancement of freedom and technological progress.
- The deluded political activist. After the collapse of communism and the end of the myths of total social regeneration, the anti-globalization movement arrived, just in time, to fill a void, eagerly occupied by the political activist in search of a cause. Many insecure and anxiety ridden young (and not so young) individuals have embraced the cause of poor people in poor nations against the all powerful multinationals without taking much care to check if they were, at the same time, upholding the present system of state exploitation based on state controls and state restrictions of movement (of people, goods, cultural products).
What is remarkable is the fact that many of these figures keep repeating their arguments even in the presence of facts that should shake profoundly their confidence.
The anti-globalization movement is characterized by strange contradictions that reveal its roots in mainstream statist thinking and its inability (or rather, unwillingness) to transcend it through serious analyses and anti-conventional behaviour.
The vocabulary of its main exponents is full of terms taken straight from the armoury of statism. The magic words of public and private are widely employed and the deceitful identification of public=state is used implicitly as a matter of fact. For them the society is the state and society exists only as the state and its rules. That is why free unregulated exchanges are not acceptable because they transcend the sphere of the state.
This produces a series of ironic contradictions that are not really noticed either by the protagonists or by the social observers and commentators. It substantiates the remark about the superficiality and fad-driven essence of the movement.
To take an example, the political leaders of the most industrialized countries are accused of acting as globalizers or of being pro-globalization. These are the same individuals who enforce stringent border controls for people and put up tariffs against the free circulation of goods. At the same time there is an anti-globalization group that acts under the name of "No Borders." These are clearly cases where the meaning of words and the sense of reality have been turned upside down, with the supposed globalizers putting up fences and the so-called anti-globalizers trying to pull them down. So we have fake "globalizers" in favour of well-defined borders for people and goods, and fake "anti-globalizers" fighting for total freedom of movement for everybody and everything, everywhere.
Another strange occurrence is the fact that the logo of a book against logos has become a new logo [2000, Naomi Klein]. That book being like a bible for anti-globalizers, it should make many individuals think carefully about the consistency and lucidity of the major spokespersons of the movement. This remark applies to many global icons of the movement (Naomi Klein, José Bové, Susan George, etc.) who are present on the global conferencing and publishing scene through transnational organizations and multinational publishing companies in order to spread an anti-global message. Very snobbish and also very fishy.
Out of this mess, and generally, out of any mess, nothing good is likely to originate. In fact, this is the most favourable terrain for social meddlers and political peddlers to carry on their half tragic and half idiotic ventures.
In recent times, some sectors of the anti-globalization movement have refused this label and are calling themselves "new global." But the solution is not changing labels but changing ideas and behaviour, that is leaving behind a way of thinking and acting based on the state as the supreme agent and moving to a paradigm where the freedom and care of individuals and communities by individuals and communities play the central role. For this we have to go beyond globalism and antiglobalism.
Beyond globalism and antiglobalism (^)
This essay has aimed to refute many of the arguments put forward by the
anti-globalization movement and has tried to show that globalism is not
a reactionary plot by powerful sharks but the revolutionary activity of
many small fish, navigating the oceans and freely communicating with each
The arguments of the anti-globalization movement lead us back into the crushing embrace of Big Brother the nation state, which has never been the defender of the local community and the protector of the individual person.
The "think globally act locally" message has been turned upside down by the anti-globalizers who act globally (from Seattle to Prague, from Gothenburg to Genova) while thinking along very narrow and short-term lines.
The menacing scenarios presented by some scaremongers, for instance
the image of a few multinationals dominating the world, is more
a nightmarish invention than a current possibility as some recent
episodes have made clear (e.g. the collapse or retreat of over-extended
telecommunication companies). The more we open the world to healthy and
free competition, the more the big companies will be bound to restructure
themselves along more dynamic lines. Huge conglomerates in an open world
are like dinosaurs on the way to extinction or reduction to more appropriate
dimensions, if this is possible. They resemble the once few and powerful
mainframes, bound to be displaced and replaced by the infinite small nodes
of the network.
The main focus should not be on the MacDonald's outlets of this world but on the MacArthur (the generals) and the McCarthy (the politicians); otherwise they will always prevail with their nefarious interventions even after hamburgers and fast food have gone out of fashion.
Globalism is, for many people, the only way to escape political
oppression, economic poverty, cultural alienation.
However, even this grand vision of emancipation and progress connected to globalism does not represent the core of the matter, being still full of limitations and distortions linked to a discourse based on globalism versus antiglobalism.
As usual the issue is simpler and clearer than it is generally thought and is centered on a simple clear word, as it has always been since the beginning of time: FREEDOM.
The real issue is not globalization vs. anti-globalization but liberation
vs. subjection, especially with reference to the nation state with its
protected cohort of monopolistic producers and parasitic consumers (the
bureaucracy, the army, etc.).
What is at stake is not globalism or localism but freedom and nothing else than freedom.
We do not need to pile up data or write long treatises to show that freedom is a human value and servitude is not, that the earth belongs to humankind for the care of present and future generations and is not the closed territorial racket of national rulers and their corrupt or credulous appendages.
For this reason, whenever and wherever a debate on globalization takes
place, after listening carefully to the various positions and arguments
put forward and having worked out in our mind all the possible implications,
we should sincerely ask ourselves: where is freedom? who is really advocating
freedom? how can we better develop freedom?
According to the answers we should know where we stand.
This essay has not been overburdened with statistical data as they are easily accessible in many documents on the Web and in some books, in particular the one by Johan Norberg and that by Brink Lindsey. In any case, the advocacy of freedom does not need any statistical support. It is a moral issue that has its foundations in human nature and in the desirability of its development.
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