Naomi Klein and the Anti-Globalization Movement
Paul S. Segerstrom Stockholm School of Economics
Current version: April 15, 2003
How should economists be responding to the arguments made by anti-
globalization activists? This paper examines the writings of Naomi Klein, one of the
leaders in the anti-globalization movement. After summarizing the contents of her
, some problems with her analysis of globalization and its
effects are discussed.
Professor Paul S. Segerstrom, Stockholm School of Economics, Box
6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden (e-mail: Paul.Segerstrom@hhs.se).
I would like to thank Anna Breman, Richard Friberg, Tim Kehoe,
Vuokko Segerstrom and Romain Wacziarg for helpful comments. Of course, any errors
that remain are my own responsibility. Financial support from the Wallander Foundation
is gratefully acknowledged.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.
She was born in
Montreal in 1970 and currently lives in Toronto. Her articles have appeared in numerous
publications including the
New York Times
Globe & Mail.
Following several years of research, she
completed a book
in 2000 that criticizes the business practices of large
multinational corporations as well as the policies of international organizations like the
World Trade Organization (WTO). The timing of this book was perfect as it was
published shortly after the 1999 WTO summit in Seattle, where a mass protest rally by
anti-globalization activists turned into a riot.
expresses powerfully the anger that
anti-globalization protesters feel about what is going on in the world. This book
immediately became a bestseller and it has been very influential. As a consequence,
Naomi Klein has emerged as an intellectual leader in the anti-globalization movement.
As a professor of international economics at the Stockholm School of Economics, I teach
on a regular basis an introductory undergraduate course on international economics. In
this course, I talk at length about international trade policies: what are the effects of
restricting trade using tariffs, import quotas, voluntary export restraints, etc. I present the
costs and benefits of these trade restrictions and show that the costs typically exceed the
benefits using standard cost-benefit analysis. I also present various sophisticated
arguments that have been advanced for why countries should restrict international trade:
the terms of trade argument for a tariff, the infant industry argument for developing
countries, the strategic trade policy argument for developed countries, and various
domestic market failure arguments for protectionism. In each case, I show that the
arguments for why countries benefit by restricting trade are logically correct but of
limited practical relevance. Because there is a strong case for free trade and there are