A Fresh Look at Globalization
When does "free trade" = transnational-corporate welfare?
by Freethinker Bob

"What's more, the once-economically beneficial occupations of America’s past have been steadily uprooted and replaced with low-paying, tenure-insecure service industry jobs, while the individual cost of living has skyrocketed.  On the international scene with globalization, and just as negatively, are the homogenization and destruction of cultures and the oppressive, colonial-style influence on decentralized regions and their native inhabitants."

In the wake of Delphi's recent Flint layoffs, the repetitive, standard-issue reasoning being offered up by a slew of monetarist economists continues to be globalization. But behind the repetition of a simplistic buzzword, what exactly is globalization and what's really behind it?[2]

On paper globalization reads like a win-win situation for everyone: cheaper goods, increased technology, and expanded communication and information for the peoples of the Earth. In reality, however, globalization serves to enrich trans-national corporations at the vast expense of local control, economic sustainment, human rights, social programs, and environmental protection.

Globalization advocates can be placed into two broad categories: neoconservatives and anarchocapitalists. Globalization opponents, meanwhile, can be categorized as protectionists or internationalists. [I present a humanistic alternative for world commerce at the end of this column.]

The neoconservative perspective on "free-trade" can be seen in President Bush's recent proposals to permit illegal aliens to continue working in the United States but not offering them citizenship. Much like with the NAFTA, GATT and CAFTA trade treaties, such a policy take on globalization stresses "open markets" so long as American companies (who not so coincidentally make lofty PAC contributions to GOP and Democratic Party candidates every election cycle) have the advantage.

As famed linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky pointed out in a 1995 interview: "They [GATT and NAFTA] both have highly protectionist elements. They are kind of a mixture of liberalization and protection designed to expand the power of transnational corporations. They are very basically investor-rights agreements."

By comparison, anarchocapitalists do not subscribe to the concept of nation-state sovereignty, protection, security or identity, only the desire for a genuine "lassiez faire" market. In spite of the differences between the two, both proglobalization advocates share the perspective that economics trump geopolitical existence and even well-being of individuals and societies.

The antiglobalization view, meantime, is often over-characterized as protectionism. The protectionist view itself stresses nationalism and "Our country first." While protectionists may be concerned about the negative impacts globalization has on another nation-state or societal subculture, their main concern-much like proglobalization neoconservatives-is that of the "homeland" economy. Homeland economy, of course, translates to the well being of homeland-based corporations who help to provide a country's citizens with basic jobs. In protectionist circles, as well, economics too-often takes precedence over environmental protections, human rights, and individual self-determination.

By comparison, the antiglobalization internationalist realizes that "free trade" hardly benefits individuals, but rather multinationals who come from nation-states influential in global financial organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Such financial global financial institutions place trade and transactions in the hands of conglomerates, not individual persons.

In this manner[3] the conglomerates receive incalculable ducats worth of "corporate welfare" courtesy of a nation's taxpayers and at the expense of important taxpayer-supported social programs such as Social Security and Head Start. This receiving of taxpayer subsidies comes in addition to many corporations ducking their responsibility to pay business taxes by establishing tax-shelter mailboxes in places such as the Cayman Islands.

The internationalist, at the same time, stresses the concept of "fair trade," meaning when participating in trade countries actually considering the welfare of individual citizens who typically act as workers. Inasmuch, a balance is struck betwixt economic priority and considerations such as labor rights and environmental impact.

While the concept of globalization on paper has several attractive draws —such as reduction of regressive nationalism, the weakening of the overated concept of the nation-state, and dissemination of important knowledge and ideas—the actualities thus far are far from positive. On domestic fronts, which protectionists often highlight, examples include layoffs, sizeably decreased wages, and the destruction of small business and the tax bases of local economies.

Examples of this economic devastation locally include former-industrial cities like the automotive centers of Flint and Detroit, Michigan, as well as the steel industries in Pennsylvania and Ohio. These are where American companies closed and moved to Mexico, India, or China, where workers are paid considerably (and strategically) less and comparable environmental regulations are next to or simply non-existent. The result: migration by the middle class out of these urban areas, a reduction in local tax bases, strapped essential public services, and often bankrupt municipalities.

What's more, the once-economically beneficial occupations of America's past have been steadily uprooted and replaced with low-paying, tenure-insecure service industry jobs, while the individual cost of living has skyrocketed. On the international scene with globalization, and just as negatively, are the homogenization and destruction of cultures and the oppressive, colonial-style influence on decentralized regions and their native inhabitants.

An alternative?

For now, a solution better than globalization is economic localization which, when not fused with barriers to organizing like political nationalism and religious identity divisions, has a much better chance of allowing for democratic and individual involvement in trade issues than globalization. In addition, localization is open to more community control and input on how an economy is run by the people it will directly affect. Community resistance, therefore—as seen during the WTO, World Bank and G-8 Summits protests in recent years—is not a protest against trade rather [structurally coerced—ed.] trade that exploits while hiding behind faux-capitalist rhetoric and simplistic sloganeering.

Such resistance additionally challenges the transnationals, whether they prop up or bring down govermental policy. In general, economic localization aims to combat the regressive “McDonaldization” of the world’s various societies.

[2] A recent paen to globalization of the questionable variety—or at least failing to question the coercive qualities of such global economics—is Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat (i.e. the world is being flattened by the Kleptocon transnationals). —ed.

[3] Mainly via state dictation of the 'rules of engagement:' who gets the resource rights, who decides whether local business or transnationals can profit, who "is" the infrastructure that the people will be forced to to pay for, etc.  A classic example of forced globalization is Iraq (ref. Antonia Juhasz expose The Bush Agenda). —ed.

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