This 2001 Foreign Policy piece by Michael Pettit asking “Will Globalization Go Bankrupt? suddenly seems rather timely.
It argues that the main drivers of globalization have been financial rather than technological or political. As he puts it,
Globalization is primarily a monetary phenomenon in which expanding liquidity induces investors to take more risks. This greater risk appetite translates into the financing of new technologies and investment in less developed markets. The combination of the two causes a “shrinking” of the globe as communications and transportation technologies improve and investment capital flows to every part of the globe. Foreign trade, made easier by the technological advances, expands to accommodate these flows. Globalization takes place, in other words, largely because investors are suddenly eager to embrace risk.
As is often forgotten during credit and investment booms, however, monetary conditions contract as well as expand. In fact, the contraction is usually the inevitable outcome of the very conditions that prompted the expansion.
But when things go bad, watch out, because that’s when people decide that the downsides of globalization outweigh the benefits:
The costs of globalization, in the form of social disruption, rising income inequality, and domination by foreign elites, became unacceptable. The political and intellectual underpinnings of globalization, which had once seemed so secure, were exposed as fragile, and the popular counterattack against the logic of globalization grew irresistible.
It’s clear to me that until we can find a way to solve the problems of inequality and permanent unemployment, we’re not going to get out of our current crisis. A lot of Trump’s appeal, and the appeal of nationalists in Europe, rests with the idea that they’ll protect Us and Our Way of Life.
Meanwhile, the arguments that cheap t-shirts and flat-screen TVs are a fair exchange for your former way of life, or that just as soon as the super-rich finish building yachts large enough to hold several smaller yachts the tide will rise and lift your little boat, or that in today’s meritocratic world if you’re poor you deserve it, mysteriously don’t seem to be so compelling.