Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Problem with Globalization

Maybe it's just the capitalist sentiment in me, but I get weirded out when people start talking about foreign aid. Shannon's post below this one dealt with the issues regarding aid agencies not doing enough. From a political standpoint, they're doing as much as they can with what they have. A majority of the aid money comes from first world powers, and since first world powers are primarily capitalist and rationally self-interested actors, the aid agency has little to work with in the end. But could first world powers be doing much, much more? The rational answer is no. Let's face it: there's always going to be a discrepancy or a gap between the rich and the poor, and no matter how much we attempt to close that gap, it will still exist so long as technology and capitalism in the system exists.

The other problem I had with globalization is its effect on day to day life. I'll be honest, I'm pretty much addicted to the internet. When I'm not connected, I feel like I'm out of touch. It's now I get 1) my TV 2) my news 3) my facebook 4) my email etc, etc ad infinitum. Same goes for my phone. It allows immediate connectivity for myself and any of my friends. We've been hearing the same advice since we were kids: turn off the TV and go outside. But now it's a much more dangerous device that even grown ups can't live without. Are we doomed to a Wall-E future, with little chubby people floating around in their hoverchairs, constantly connected in 10 different screens at once, and yet never really reach out and touch someone?

I hope not. Though if it happens, I'm banking on a rusty little robot to zoom past me and bump me out of my chair.


John Duncan said...

I never really know if you are serious or not. If you actually meant that question then no: we will never turn into Wall-E. Wall-E makes no economic sense. The members of that society don't contribute to their society, and have no way of getting food (if I remember the movie correctly) which would eventually become a pretty huge issue.

Anyways, I am not entirely sure what your real question is, but I am not quite sure what is so horrible about Globalization when you get right down to it. If a society has a great component to it, it will not be thrown out and no one will be forced to change. Globalization, in an economic sense, heightens peoples ability to manipulate their competitive advantage. Most states gain a stronger economy from foreign trade and are given access to medical technology that they wouldn't have seen for years and years. I think people want to find a problem in Globalization, but the pros seem to far outweigh the cons.

MVP said...

I was serious about the humane aspects of the movie, which represent an increasing trend in "global connectivity" and the dangers associated with it. I know the movie makes no economic sense: monopolies don't last, food supply is limited, etc etc. Those economic aspects are not what I'm talking about.

John Duncan said...

Could you expand on what these dangers are? I do not see any true and terrifying downsides to globalization.

MVP said...

I think what I'm getting at is the loss of individualism and the loss of culture. You said "If a society has a great component to it, it will not be thrown out and no one will be forced to change." Well my friend, "half of history is hiding the truth." Perhaps a bit too extreme, but my point is, who's to say what components of culture are great and need to be preserved?

The loss of individualism on the other hand deals with humanity's simultaneous connect and disconnect.

Colin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin said...

There are several very terrifying downsides to globalization. Being from the first world, we of course assume that globalizing the world is a common sense and advantageous outcome for the world. Now while you may delight in going to wal-mart to get your cheap groceries and whatnot, there is a country whose people are working to make that, and if you think it was cheap on your end, think what the laborers are worth. Also, globalization produces, more than anything, vast amounts of global debt - a burden on developing nations that is pretty much impossible to get out from under - hence keeping them down. Globalization is great - assuming you're at the top of the food chain.

Joy Henary said...

I definitely agree with you Colin, that there are many downsides to this process of globalization. In the basement of Clough, there is a set up example of this process of what globalization does to developing countries. It shows what the Betsileo, natives of Madagascar produce versus what they "consume" in terms of buying. What they make is an extremely high quality compared to what they "consume." One American dollar is worth about 10,000 of their currency. They produce clothes, shoes, and toys of a much greater value than what they buy because they simply cannot compete with the prices that globalization has brought. They will buy a cheap pair of shoes that might last a few months versus buying one of their own pair of shoes that they made because they simply cannot afford to spend $3 for shoes compared to $1. Thus they buy the shoe that looks good on the rack, but will look horrible a few weeks later. This whole process is not beneficial for the Betsileo, and actually helps to contribute to more waste...contributing to the more waste-prone society of the Wall-E world. If they were able to compete or afford their own-made shoes, then they would need significantly fewer pairs of shoes than they would purchasing the cheap shoes.

John Duncan said...


Producers chase cheap labor. This means they go to countries where they are willing to work for less than other countries. This does not mean that their wages are being cut. You cannot convince people to work for you if the wages you are paying them are not better than those at their original place of work. This is not slavery. It is all about incentives. The people that work in those shoe manufacturing plants probably would have had a job with lower wages or would have been unemployed if they had not worked for the shoe company.

And just a guess, but if someone cannot afford a nice pair of shoes, I would imagine that they do not throw away their old shoes. They, most likely, find a use for the material. Avoiding the "waste-prone world of wall-e".

And the fact that their currency is only worth 1/10,000th of a dollar (if that is in fact true) is a result of a failing economy. Globalization helps to bolster than economy significantly.

In your most recent example Globalization serves to fix the problems you say it produces.

Also, Colin - how does it lead to global debt?

Joy Henary said...

I wasn't making the point that they would work for less than they are working now.
They do find ways to reuse some of the material the buy. Such as coke cans...they make a majority of the toys and pots & pans from such materials. However, if you look at the quality of the items in Clough, that material is so cheap that it would most likely not be able to reused for anything much. They shoes are so thin and almost flimsy that who will be able to reuse that ripped, torn fabric in an efficient way?

Andrew Campbell said...

If you really dive into the issues of globalization, you will find that it serves a fundamental role not only within American society, but in the world itself.

MVP, think about decreasing cost-industries!!! Isn't this beneficial to America as well as those countries that are involved with outsourcing?! THink about it...the cost of living in areas such as Malaysia is so low and the poverty rate is so, so high. American outsourcing in economically developing countries like this is crucial! If you take technological development to the EXTREME (to the point that it's uncontrollable), yeah, you may get some type of Wall-E type of thing in like the year 3008.