In the flurry of scholarly books and articles that address the nature and effect of present-day economic globalization, Bhagwatis In Defense of Globalization plays an important contribution. He defines globalization as the, integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, direct-foreign investment, short-term capital flows, international flows of workers and flows of technology (Bhagwati, 2004). As the books title reveals, it articulates robust support for globalization, particularly on areas of direct foreign investment and free trade. Bhagwati systematically debunks the principle arguments promulgated by anti-globalization activists by dividing them into two groups. These are the anti-establishment forces whose major standpoint is opposing market-based systems and critics who have focused on specific globalization aspects whom he contends that they have based their arguments on poor and incomplete information. Before Jagdish Bhagwatis work, anti-globalist activists and works had an upper hand. They heavily outnumbered books that advocated for globalization, but his work restored the balance. He asserts that despite having a variety of social ills, globalization when properly regulated, stands to be the most powerful force that has the capability of enacting social good globally (Cammett & Bhagwati, 2005).
Bhagwati draws from his unparalleled knowledge pertaining to matters of international economics and dismantles anti-globalization criticism. Primarily, he argues that globalization often leads to greater prosperity especially in underdeveloped countries as it reduces instances of child labor, enhances social and economic standing of women, and also improves literacy levels. In addition, he counters the assertion that globalization leads to cultural domination by pointing to various examples from movies and literature where globalization has had a positive impact in areas where spicy hybrid cultures have been catapulted.
He is compelling and controversial whenever he cuts through the noise voiced by anti-globalization moves where he posits that globalization is part of the solution, and not part of the problem. In his first edition, Bhagwati addressed the critiques encapsulated in matters of womens equality and rights, poverty among the poor nations, indigenous and mainstream culture, the environment, as well as democracy. As per Bhagwati, he points out that these factors are adjoined to advancing these agenda, and therefore, globalization will lead to a better society. As such, whereas these globalization critics assumed that it lacks a human face, according to Bhagwati, it actually included it (Bhagwati, 2004).
The critics of globalization, in accordance with Bhagwati, have both asymmetries and similarities, from both a political and economic standpoint, which entail various aspects including trade, direct foreign investment, diffusion of technology, short-term capital flows, international flows of humanity, and therefore, are divided into two camps, individuals who are conventionally worried about the adverse social implications it has, and those who are increasingly becoming fearful of the adverse economic implications. Those falling within the social implications paradigm cut across the Northern rich countries and the Southern poor countries, which has created a gap between them, although as he points out, those subscribing to this view are located in the North. On the other hand, those who are worried about economic ramifications are also based in the North, especially in Germany, France, and the U.S. for instance, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair discredited the issue of globalization citing various reasons, for example, as aforementioned, lack of human face (Bhagwati, 2004). Bhagwati went ahead and posited that globalization has a human face, and considering a wider and broader perspective, it actually advances social agendas instead of setting them back.
For instance, considering the inequality of pay that women are subjected to in some employments owing to globalization, even when they are equally qualified to men, social dispositions of globalization do not hold. It is an unfair treatment that many women undergo. For instance, as Bhagwati pointed out, as the pressure of competition among firms ameliorates, as so does with traded goods, the capability of enterprises to indulge in prejudiced payment of higher wages for men compared to women should be crowded out. According to Bhagwati, there is evidence showcased by US data that in a twenty-year period span, there has been a proliferation of inequality of pay between women and men, which as the data revealed, reduced at a faster rate in traded industries compared to the non-traded ones. As such, trade helped bridge these inequalities, thereby evidencing the need for globalization, instead of pushing it away.
Pertaining to environmental critics, primarily encapsulated within trade, Bhagwati considers the belief held by NGOs who remain in opposition to trade, citing their reason as nations have to go local and thereby support that companies should buy their goods closer to their home country so as to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that are worsened by international trade. Bhagwati supports this claim by citing a research that was conducted by the Department for International Development (DFID), which is a British agency that commissioned the study of carbon dioxide emissions for flowers grown in Rotterdam and Africa. It was appalling that those flowers that were grown Rotterdam emitted a lot of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, and thereby proving that globalization does not change the adverse environmental impact for countries in Africa (Bhagwati, 2004).
Additionally, as per Bhagwati, globalization has more advantages compared to disadvantages. In addition to controlling democracy, child labor, and inequality, it reduces poverty, particularly in those countries with fewer job opportunities. For instance, globalization facilitates a freer trade, and in turn, cheaper goods and increased consumption. With the amelioration of consumption, market demands are increased thereby improving economic growth, and hence increasing everyones stock. In effect, those seeking for jobs are presented with more job opportunities owing to the global markets exposure (Cammett & Bhagwati, 2005). As Bhagwati points out, to the West, those individuals working in shoe factories may seem atrocious compared to those employees who would otherwise be doing nothing at all, however, their jobs provide them with an opportunity to make an income, and globalization makes their new jobs increase in volumes, hence more income. In instances where globalization has led to poverty amelioration, Bhagwati is quick in noting that that cannot be attributed to globalization, but rather due to domestic policies such countries national governments have adopted, but not due to the heightened trade levels facilitated by the context of globalization.
Further, considering the same lines of poverty, Bhagwati addresses the issue of child labor by asserting that globalization is helping in curbing the problem, and not worsening it. As a matter of fact, he points out that children who work in poor countries whether they incorporate free trade or not will continue with the process. He also asserts that even as they continue working on globalization, internationalization of trade enables to work in even better conditions than those they will be working on no globalization at all. As such, he advocates for free trade, saying that it improves the working conditions, not only for working children, but also all individuals in the free trade nation. Further, Bhagwati points out that in a globalized society, these children are usually paid better and are under the guidance of someone more experienced which does not happen when they are working in their families fields. Additionally, as he notes, the West attempts to end the use of child labor only to worsen the already worse situation such as the increased levels of child prostitution, for example, in Thailand. Additionally, the Child Labor Deterrence Act enacted by the US in 1993 intended to boycott goods made with child labor that came from overseas. In consequence, many factories closed down and in search to make more money from their kids, many parents sold their unemployed children into prostitution services or slavery, which are much worse societal vices (Cammett & Bhagwati, 2005). As such, enacting the bill only increased the same mayhems it was intended to fix in the first place.
As he tackles the issues of democracy by analyzing whether it is enhanced or diminished by free trade, he contends that it goes hand in hand with free trade, and thus globalization improves it. He also proclaims that as the trade levels ameliorate and national economies improve, so does the overall population. Also, the same point is promulgated by using the quasi-hierarchy of needs which holds that as individuals worry less about food providence to their families, they start focusing on other more beneficial matters thus pushing for increased voice on matters of policy making and implementation in their countries. From the poor, middle class always arises owing to an increase in trade levels, and the class heightens democratic clout levels of their nations. The culture may be altered, but it does not mean it is worsened or diminished in any way. Even when globalization alters the culture, as he points out, change is inevitable.
Furthermore, Bhagwati challenges environmentalists claims that globalization worsens the environmental standards. According to Bhagwati, this is not always the case because each country has the responsibility of valuating its resources and it is not wise for foreign environmental NGOs to pressure a particular country regarding such an independent comportment. He also notes that todays businesses are subjected to media scrutiny in instances of heightened public concerns pertaining to earthly environmental matters. He points out that a company is not in a position to dump waste, for example in Rio Grande and expect no consequences. It is very likely that CNN will have that action on tape, and in turn, the public will boycott it. Also, he asserts that the enterprises know perfectly that in order to improve their profitability, and they ought to observe the environmental standards. As such, it is evident that Bhagwati makes perfect sense that globalization is a benign factor in matters of environmental destruction (Cammett & Bhagwati, 2005).
To surmise, Bhagwati refutes anti-globalization claims put forth by the critics of globalization. In essence, increased foreign trade result to improved domestic incomes, increased democracy, less poverty, as well as increased environmental awareness and protection (Bhagwati, 2004). As such, I am inclined to his position that individuals need to stop focusing on single, small case examples harms globalization causes, and instead, focus on the benefits it brings forth.
Cammett, M., & Bhagwati, J. (2005). In Defense of Globalization. International Journal, 60(2), 592.
Bhagwati, J. (2004). In defense of globalization. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bhagwati, J. (2004). Anti-globalization: why? Journal of Policy Modeling, 26(4), 439-463.
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