A False Alarm: Overcoming Globalization's Discontents
By Richard N. Cooper
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004
A book review of Bhagwhati's In Defense of Globalization.
Globalization is a buzzword that has no precise definition. It takes on many
meanings, drawing both fervent support and fervent opposition. Indeed, the term is
so imprecise that it is possible to be simultaneously for and against globalization.
"In Defense of Globalization" focuses on its economic dimension, defined by Bhagwati
as "diverse forms of international integration such as foreign trade, multinational
direct foreign investment, movements of 'short-term' portfolio funds, technological
diffusion, and cross-border migration." His main thesis is that economic
globalization is an unambiguously good thing, with a few downsides that thought and
effort can mitigate. His secondary thesis is that globalization does not need to be
given a "human face"; it already has one. A thoughtful and objective evaluation,
Bhagwati believes, will make this clear, and that is what he sets out to do.
The book addresses a slate of charges against globalization: that it increases
poverty, encourages child labor, harms women, threatens democracy, imperils culture,
lowers wages, erodes labor standards, worsens the environment, and gives full reign
to predatory corporations. Bhagwati also discusses capital market liberalization and
international migration, before turning to fixes for globalization's downsides:
improving governance, accelerating social agendas, and managing the speed of
transitions. He concedes a few points to globalization's critics but, wielding logic
and fact, demolishes most of the allegations made against it. His conclusion: that
the world, particularly its poorest regions, needs more globalization, not less.
FOOLS AND KNAVES
Bhagwati was born in India and has settled in the United States. He was educated in
those two countries and at Oxford and is now professor of economics at Columbia
University. He maintains strong and active ties with his country of origin (where
his brother was chief justice of the High Court) and with his adopted country (where
his daughter is in the Marine Corps). In truth, he is a world citizen casting a
critical eye, tongue, and pen on bad policies and bad arguments wherever he finds
them -- a vocation that keeps him fully occupied.
Bhagwati began his career as a theorist and made seminal contributions to the study