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3.0 out of 5 starsSlow-moving book on the topic
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2019
It took me a while to slog through this defense of globalization, due in part to the dense prose (286 pages, with just one bar graph -- highly unusual from an economist -- and one editorial cartoon, which seemed oddly out of place). The author, a professor at Columbia, obviously knows his stuff and accomplished what he sets out to do, but he focuses almost exclusively on the economic side of globalization. He offers rebuttals to many arguments against globalization, some more convincing than others. The prose wavers between high academic (with many long sentences containing multiple subordinate clauses and some rather unusual idiomatic expressions) and attempts at clever observations that feature references to popular personages of the 1990s and 2000s (which cause the book to appear quite dated at times). It's worth a read, but there are other, more current titles on the topic.
A convincing thesis that globalization is good, with recommendations on how to best proceed with combating its downsides. For example the idea that globalization erodes labor standards because corporations will simply find cheap labor is a common critique of globalization. Bhagwati however shows that corporations operating abroad have been beneficial. They pay more, have higher labor standards, and the nations they operate in learn from them. The other large drawback people point to with globalization is the apparent need for global government to manage it. Bhagwati shows how instead domestic institutions and NGOs can have a bigger role that others believe need to be done by global government. Bhagwati addresses many common critiques individually in chapters. His writing is well organized, and it is very easy to follow. Well worth your time.
The formal charges, levelled in the court of public opinion amid a backdrop of incendiary outrage, burst onto the front pages at the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999. Never had a defendant been so blindsided by the passions of overzealous prosecution. To observers the outcome of the trial seemed a foregone conclusion: the guilty verdict against globalization was all but a sure thing. The era of free trade was over.
But after the tear gas dissipated and the hysterical rantings of labor unions, environmentalists, and zealous isolationists quieted, it was time for the defense to make its presentation. And, to the great benefit of world progress, the team had some able advocates. Over the following years intellectuals like Brink Lindsay, Martin Wolf, and Tom Friedman shredded the overwraught and underthought indictment of the anti-globalists, with careful and insightful analysis of trade barriers and their insidious costs. And the distinguished Columbia professor Jagdish Bhagwati has delivered devastating de facto closing arguments in his cogent, understated masterwork "In Defense of Globalization".
To his great credit Bhagwati never allows emotion to intrude on his analysis of the impact of globalization on poverty, the environment, women's rights, labor standards, the development of democracy, and the fate of cultural traditions. The temptation must be great, since the empirical evidence he sprinkles liberally throughout the book demonstrates with little question that the reduction of trade barriers has the salutory effect of lifting incomes, the ostensible goal of all factions who see poverty reduction as a global imperative. But Bhagwati eschews inflated rhetoric for gentle guidance.
In short, he illustrates how globalization actually enhances labor standards by exporting better practices from the developed world; how wages are pushed up through the intercession of multi-nationals, in comparison with those on offer in impoverished nations' native industries; how women's education and health levels have improved as a result of initiatives in micro finance and export processing zones; how repressive political systems, not the nefarious greed of foreign corporations, often dictate the mistreatment of their citizen-laborers.
This is just a sampling of the many areas Bhagwati explores; part of what makes his argumentation so credible is his treatment of the negative effects of globalization, both temporary and chronic. Globalization will involve dislocation, job insecurity, financial imbalances; he admits as much early on, and uses his authority to recommend remdial measures, like job training subsidies and less onerous immigration laws, that make resounding sense. Though an obvious ardent proponent of globalization, he understands the fears it engenders, and renders those fears comprehensible.
In summation: there is more than reasonable doubt that globalization is guilty of being a force for evil. And that's good, because globalization is happening. The verdict here, whatever the public court decides, is non-binding. Bhagwati's immeasurable contribution to the process is a voice that may make the world's more gullible citzenry aware that the stranger knocking at their door just might be named Opportunity.
3.0 out of 5 starsProponent Who Stays Generally Fair
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2007
When I started this book I was prepared to dislike it. I've read several books criticizing globalization and I generally view globalizations cheerleaders as corporate tools. The book started weak but finished strong and I've decided to divide my review up into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly or in this case the Bad, the Ugly and the Good.
The Bad The author has a tendency to absolve globalization of all ills unless a direct cause and effect can be drawn. For example, he writes that although pollution is a global problem it's not necessarily a problem of globalization. Unfortunately the environmental cost of filling your cart at Wal-Mart with items shipped from around the world is real and irrefutably a result of globalization. The author also takes a rather condescending swipe at the concept of sustainable development.
Besides ecological damage perhaps the number one danger of unrestrained capitalism is the concentration of wealth, however, Mr. Bhagwati prefers to look at the upside of obscene opulence stating that a billionaire like Bill Gates, having more money than he can possibly spend, donates the bulk of his fortune towards social good. The way I see it for every Bill Gates there's a dozen Scaife's, Coors' and Murdoch's using their fortunes to manipulate government for their own ends. Even if the world WAS filled with benevolent billionaires like Gates do the rest of us really want to be dependent on the handouts of the ultra-wealthy like mana from Heaven? No thanks.
The Ugly Jagdish Bhagwati only quotes occasionally but one person who makes it into the book is Tom Delay. It's clear throughout the book that the author leans to the right of center but quoting such a toxic jerk to defend globalizations really leaves me questioning the author's judgment. Another thing that really bothered me was his implication that Chilean president Salvador Allende brought the coup, which ended his life, on himself by choosing `to move dramatically to the left'.
The final is a biggie. Mr. Bhagwati defends sweatshops by claiming that the workers WANT to work half days or more. He quotes a Hong Kong factory manager who says, "It's actually pretty annoying how hard they want to work. It means we have to worry about security and have a supervisor around almost constantly." I don't even know how to respond to that one.
The Good Mr. Bhagwati does recognize and admit many of the problems of globalization particularly the asymmetry of justice in the WTO dispute mechanism which favors the powerful. The issue is that poor countries really have no means of retaliating against wealthy countries that break trade agreements. Another issue is the way the Adam Smith `invisible hand' proponents' work to crib the system in their favor. Businesses and conservatives want to see restrictions eliminated on multinationals but then turn right around and beg for subsidies. The cozy relationship between business and politics has moved into very unhealthy territory and the author astutely points out that what we in the United States call lobbying is referred to by a different name elsewhere, bribery.
I was glad to see that the author is no cheerleader for right wing economic theories. He recognizes that freeing capital can only happen after regulatory institutions, particularly a stable, relatively corruption free banking system is in place. I was also pleased by the authors claim that, "As a citizen of the United States, I weigh in on the side of environmentalists and am rooting for them to win." Finally Mr. Bhagwati referred to supply-sider as `bad-economists' which really scored points with me.
It's a fairly good book hurt by some really bad points. Mr. Bhagwati is no right wing globalization flag waver but likewise he seems to put more faith in multinationals than they perhaps deserve. As pro-globalization books go this one is worth reading.
5.0 out of 5 starsA very good book and an important one indeed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 6, 2008
In rather readable style - I just love his sense of humour - Professor Bhagwati (JB) sets out his case in favour of globalisation.
Part One sets out the arguments of the anti-globalisation movement. It would appear that a whole load of other issues not connected to globalisation found a home in the anti-globalisation movement, anti-Americanism being one of them. JB also notes that students of economics tend to be in favour of globalisation and that those opposed to globalisation rarely know anything about economics. Perhaps that situation could be remedied by spreading more knowledge of economics amongst the "anti-globalisationists".
In Part Two, JB examines the effect of globalisation on a number of issues including poverty, child labour, women and their treatment of, democracy, culture, wages and labour standards, the environment and multi-national corporations. He finds that globalisation is not a threat but rather beneficial to any of these subjects and that multi-nationals are not thriving by playing economies against each other or exploiting countries by abusing their corporate might.
Part Three deals with legal and illegal movement of labour and the challenges arising from it and the perils arising from the move of international capital where he also looks at the 1998 Asian crisis. Whilst I agree with JB that the reason for the crisis was not an end of the economic miracle experienced in the 30-odd years before the crisis I think that these countries' economic mismanagement played a large part in it. But you are of course free to read JB's book and make up your own mind.
In Part Four, JB discusses ways in which globalisation could be managed in such a way that potential downsides in the course of economic development could be met in a better way than is available at present. You will notice that JB is terribly impressed with the efforts of the IMF and the World Bank in helping countries in need.
In his conclusions, JB mentions that his book was written against the background of the mass demonstrations accompanying the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999.
Also in his conclusion, JB tells of an argument put forward by the anti-globalisation movement that globalisation kills jobs in the industrialised countries. This line of argument would suggest that investment and economic development to the non-industrialised world must be denied because these jobs must be retained in the industrialised countries in order to secure `our future'. Who is the selfish party here, I wonder.
Jagdish Bhagwati's book should be compulsory reading for everyone because he proves that the arguments put forward by the anti-globalisationists are simply not true, including the one about killing jobs outlined above. I look forward to these people demonstrating in favour of globalisation, soon, or at least after they have read JB's book.
3.0 out of 5 starsA helpful introduction to the rhetoric of demagogues
Reviewed in Canada on August 29, 2013
Perhaps that title is uncharitable and too general. It's also a helpful introduction to unbridled 'free-market' rhetoric.
I'd like to think I'm an open-minded person. That's why I read this at the same time as Joe Stiglitz's "Globalization and it's Discontents," hoping I could discern some enlightened center of gravity between them. That was my hope. I only managed to stomach a handful of chapters in this book before I was dry-heaving. [My inability to stomach it in its entirety is why I give it three stars- just in case something miraculous happened in what I missed.] Oh, and I should note that I'm an economics student, so 'free-markets' and trade liberalization are my academic bread-and-butter; I've been known to handle whole units based on Milton Friedman without even flinching. As such, my reaction isn't because I think he's wrong or that economic globalization is obviously an evil force in the universe, but because his presentation of these ideas is so farcically unbalanced.
In what I read, Bhagwati spills a lot of ink in ridiculing the boorish, uninformed, anti-globalization masses -- you know -- the ones who go on hunger strikes outside of Wal*Marts and think that the World Bank thrives on the blood of small children. This is a great tactic to engender a sense of contempt and make sure every reader is on the same team: "at least we're not them!" This is naked posturing and waste of everybody's time. Following these battle calls he recites standard verses from the sacred tablets of the order of free-marketeers. I would like to mention only one, pertaining to the issue of inequality.
When growth is the holy grail, 'inequality' is an immediate follow-up issue. "Who cares about growth," ask the critics, "if it is only felt by the most wealthy?" This is a serious question for neo-classical economists and, when posed, one often hears the comforting reply that "a rising tide lifts all boats" or that "having a bigger pie means more for everyone, even if some get a bigger slice." Bhagwati gives us these reassurances, but adds a couple of new ones in his two-page survey of the topic:
1) "Yet another way in which inequality becomes acceptable is if those who are at the bottom of the scale feel that they can also make it: inequality is accepted because it excites not envy but aspiration and hope."
and.. 2) "the consequences of increased inequality, in any event, might be paradoxically benign, rather than malign. If a thousand people become millionaires, the inequality is less than if Bill Gates gets to make a billion all by himself. But the thousand millionaires, with only a million each will likely buy [frivolous toys.] In contrast, Gates will not be able to spend his billion even if he were to buy a European castle a day, and the unconscionable wealth would likely propel him, as in fact it has, to spend the bulk of the money on social good. So extreme inequality will have turned out to be better than less acute inequality!"
Yep. That actually happened. I will not dissect these points here- my blood pressure is too high already. All I wish to point out is that (at least from what I read) this book reads more like a manifesto than a serious study of serious issues. I never finished it, so I can't say "don't buy it" but I can at least say "be careful." So I will. Please be careful to see through his pulpit-pounding demagoguery and weigh the arguments by their own merits.