Globalisations Benefits Greater Than Its Costs Politics Essay

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Globalisation is not a new phenomenon. The twentieth century began when the first wave of globalisation was approaching its peak and it ended on the rising crest of a second wave far more forceful than the first. Globalisation, in the sense of increased integration of international markets, has waxed and waned throughout history. Freidman describes the two sides of globalisation as he states;

"[Globalisation] can be incredibly empowering and incredibly coercive. It can democratize opportunity and democratize panic. It makes the whales bigger and the minnows stronger. It leaves you behind faster and faster, and it catches up to you faster and faster. While it is homogenizing cultures, it is also enabling people to share their unique individuality farther and wider." [3]  

These comparisons and observations characterise globalisation and heightened inter-dependence. What it seems immediately obvious and about the effects of globalisation is the inherent unpredictability. With conflicting theories whether it's a good or a bad thing, or its time has ended or has just begun; debates that have lasted decades if not centuries. An example of the unpredictably in the interdependent, globalised economy was displayed after the events of September 11th 2001 as it led some observers to believe that globalisation would be halted, John Gray even went so far as to claim, 'the era of globalisation is over.' [4] Although the world economy did appear to stall temporarily, the intensity of global economic activity has increased ever since. It seems that the 'second age of globalisation' has come about and economic activity is more intensified than ever.

Benefits 1000

In 2002, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched his Global Compact at the World Economic Forum. The premise is a simple one - business and the UN pursue complementary objectives.With the UN focusing on peace and development, business' role was therefore to create wealth and prosperity. It is clear that the different remits are not mutually exclusive, i.e. one cannot exist without the other in most cases and there are clear areas of commonality on such issues as human rights, labour standards and environmental protection. Multinationals are a often portrayed as the arch enemies of developing nations by critics of globalisation, however the question arises; if that is is the case, then why do so many nations compete so fiercely for their investment. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. Richard McCormick makes the point that 'Without globalisation, the developing world and the millions in it who live in extreme poverty will lose the best chance they have of improving their lot in life.' [5] 

It seems that a consensus has been reached that overall globalisation has brought more benefits than costs; that it has exacerbated inequalities both within and between countries because of sharply diverging experience at individual and country levels; and that it has increased economic and political insecurity even for those who have benefited in monetary terms from globalisation. O'Neill makes the point that there is no argument that the levels of income and disparity and poverty are significant between advanced and emerging countries. [6] It is claimed by Gunter and Hoeven (2004) that considering the shear amount if literature produced on globalisation, there is an overall feeling that, on balance, globalisation has produced more benefits than costs; due to the sharp diverging experience at individual and country levels, both within and between countries, it has exposed and exacerbated inequalities that exist; and that even for those who have benefitted financially from globalisation, it has contributed/caused a heightened level of economic and political insecurity. That not withstanding, Gunter and Hoeven (2004) take issue with the casual link often made between the rise of globalisation and the changes in poverty and inequality, as due to the nature of globalisation, it is not simply and economic movement, and they point to the impact of global health and environmental crises.

Joseph Stiglitz makes the argument globalisation has not produced the promised benefits its cheerleaders have claimed it produces, however, he does not question that globalisation will benefit the world's poorest. He also acknowledges that for Globalisation to be a real force for good, it has to be managed in the right way and that current global governance is not fit for that purpose. He claims to be a 'great cheerleader for globalization when it is managed well' [7] 

Critics of globalisation such as Mandle agree that the management of globalisation is key and that it could be made fairer with increased government actions. [8] 

Although he concededs that global market integration has been beneficial to the poor in that it helps to advance worldwide living standards. On the other hand, when trade barriers are lowered and poor-country economies are opened to an influx of imports, it is often the case that many local producers and industries are unable to keep up with their technologically advanced competitors in the developed world.

The result is unemployment and other problems of social instability as local businesses and even entire industries are destroyed. At the same time, poor countries are under pressure from IMF and others in Washington to limit social welfare spending. Mandle recognises the harmful side effects of globalisation and argues that its proponents have paid too little attention to these matters, and claims that more should be done to ameliorate painful but necessary dislocations.

These researchers find the basic problem of globalisation, how to address "the damage that is done to some as a result of change that is beneficial to most" (Mandle 2003). Therefore they do not question the structure of the international economic order as much as they argue that enhance safety-net policies are needed at the national level. They advocate policies designed to maintain worker income and benefits when globalisation results in job losses, to educate and retain people for the new opportunities created by globalisation, and to assist retrained workers seeking new employment (Mandle 2003).

Some other researchers led by Stiglitz (2003) argue that the IMF particularly but also major international economic institutions (the World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO)) divided and pushed policies that "have served interests of the more advanced industrialised countries - and particular interests within those interests- rather than those of the developing countries. Stiglitz devotes most of his attention to how public international financial institutions have worked to advance the financial interests of Wall Street, but he also notes that major commercial interests and priorities have similarly held away at the WTO.

Costs 700

Tony Barnett makes the point 'Development cannot be defined in any simple way. It is a political and cultural term, and therefore heavily disputed. A product of western thought, culture and political interests, it has often been used as though it were technical, neutral and merely descriptive.' Tony Barnett 'Development' in R.Barry Jones (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2001), pp.337-340

It is clear that globalisation has failed to rid the world of poverty. Rather than being an unstoppable force for development, globalisation now seems more like an economic temptress, promising riches to everyone but only delivering to the few. Although global average per capita income rose strongly throughout the 20th century, the income gap between rich and poor countries has been widening for many decades. Globalisation has not worked.

The reason globalisation has not worked is because there has not been enough of it. If countries, including the rich industrialised ones, got rid of all their protectionist measures, everyone would benefit from the resulting increase in international trade: it's simple economics. If unnecessary government regulation can be eliminated, and investors and corporations can act freely, the result will be an overall increase in prosperity as the "invisible hand" of the market does its work.

Tell that to countries that have followed this route. I doubt many people in Argentina would agree. Many developing countries have done exactly what free market evangelists such as the International Monetary Fund told them to and have failed to see the benefits. The truth is that no industrialised society developed through such policies. American businesses were protected from foreign competition in the 19th century, as were companies in more recent "success stories" such as South Korea. Faith in the free market contradicts history and statistical evidence.

Lewis Williamson, Globalisation; Good or Bad? The Guardian 31/10/02

At the WEF, the most serious threat to the welfare of the world's poor comes not from those outside the conference hall, but from those inside.

he reality is, the question whether globalization is good or bad is not black and white. But it can be inferred that the process of connecting various economies and spreading technology, ideas, and culture has done more good than harm. Globalization has posed the more overt economic, social and also political benefits worldwide. But it also comes with a small price compared to the big picture.

On the economic side of things, globalization is responsible for all the various consumer productsthat are stacked on shelves in local supermarkets or large chain ones. It's made international trade possible by facilitating the transport of products between various countries. So in short, there are a greater choice of products that will guarantee consumer satisfaction. Moreover, it poses mutual economic benefits on both sides of the countries in trade. A multinational corporation from the U.S. makes a direct foreign investment in India by building branches in that country and setting factories for production. The corporation receives cheap labor which generates greater profit and in turn, India will benefit from more jobs from factories and financial capital entering the country.

Socially, there is the spread of technology, knowledge and culture. People through one of the most important and revolutionary invention ever developed by mankind, the Internet, allows people to in touch with international news and insurpassable amount of information regarding all sort of things. The proliferation of information generally increases people's social, political and economics awareness of the world around them, therefore increasing intellect.

And politically (a tricker aspect), globalization is responsible for spreading differing political ideals ranging from democracy to communism. This increased awareness (assuming there is no censorship) allows people to weight pros and cons about differing beliefs and be able to make informed decisions or opinions in the political arena that shapes their government. And the undisputed major role of the media in assisting globalization, can expose corrupt governments to the public and therefore, pressure the removal of oppressive dictators.

Critics argue the dark side of globalization stems from multinational corporation's violation of human rights in factories at their host country (mostly developing nations) and use their economic importance to their host country as a political leverage. And more recently, it's widens the gap between rich and poor nations. Well, quite frankly, globalization is not meant to level the playing field and remove poor nations out of poverty. Globalization is the beacon of spreading knowledge, technology, cultures, religion in a world that's ever becoming much smaller to live in. 

Conclusion 500

It seems that a consensus has been reached that the age of globalisation and increased interdependence has brought more benefits than costs. It also seems that in broad terms, there is a common belief that it has exacerbated inequalities both within and between countries because of sharply diverging economic experiences, both as induviduals and as states. It is also evident that globalisation has increased economic and political insecurity even for those who have benefited in monetary terms from it.

In his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman wrote: 

"Today [Globalisation] is an overarching international system shaping the domestic politics and foreign relations of virtually every country, and we need to understand it as such." 

If Freidmen's view is correct, then our analysis of whether globalization is a good or a bad thing seems almost redundant, and that the more useful question is how can globalization be harnessed so that it reduces inequality, and not exacerbate it?

But they challenge making casual link between changes in poverty and inequality with increased globalisation, as the globalisation process today has an impact far beyond its economic aspects, and is increasingly influenced by global health and environmental crises.

Globalisation can pose problems and be dangerous. But it can also bring untold opportunities and benefits. Just as capitalism requires a multitude of governing systems to keep it from devouring societies, globalization requires observation and the rule of law. 

Globalization will always have its supporters who are blind to the destruction it can cause. And it will always have strident opponents blind to the way globalization gives some people their first opportunity to fulfill basic aspirations. 

As with most issues that a studied in academia, the majority of people will be in the middle. They will see globalization not as something to adore or demonize. Instead, they will see it as something to mold, shape and manipulate for the betterment of everyone.