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Saturday, December 17, 2005
Why Anti-Globalists?--Updated!

The subject comes up in this interesting article:

And then we get to the inevitable question-and-answer session. The most awkward and difficult question comes from a young lady: “If it seems so obvious to everyone that globalisation is a force for the good, why is there so much opposition to it in rich as well as poor countries?” This remains a puzzle. The protestors in Hong Kong, the disrupters in Seattle, their fellow marchers elsewhere, claim to talk on behalf of the poor.

Yet without free trade, the foundation of globalisation, China’s poor would have remained poor and India would have easily acquired sub-Saharan status. The overwhelming beneficiaries of free trade are poor people. This is not in dispute. And yet there seems to be some persistent fear, some inchoate anxiety that will not go away. Not all the shrill anti-globalisation types are loonies. What exactly is their concern?

Rajiv Dubey from the audience may have got it right. There is a lobby in rich countries that pretends to be pro-poor, but in fact is elitist. They are cosy and comfortable. Wal-Mart, seen as an egregious symbol of globalisation, upsets their refined upper class sensitivities. That Wal-Mart may be enriching poor Chinese and making erstwhile luxuries affordable to poor Americans is dismissed with all the disdain that privileged intellectuals can summon!

What is puzzling is why the intellectual “poshocracy” of poor countries going along with this anti-globalisation posture knowing full well that opting out of world trade flows would remove the slim hope that we will dig ourselves out of poverty in our lifetimes. Clearly, this has something to do not with absolute improvements in economies, but with relative shares of the pie. It is the basic law of capitalism that a pot-bellied pan-chewing businessman who wears safari suits and who is in the “import-export” business will on average take more risk and on average will make a lot more money than a PhD in multi-cultural anthropology from JNU. And this is from the perspective of the left-wing intellectual both unpalatable and unjust.

The intellectuals of communist China don’t seem to have a problem with this. It is only the leftist elites of the West and their counterparts in India who seem to feel this way!

In the US and other modern economies the problem with globalization is the implication for socialism. Socialism for the American Left always stops at the Rio Grande, because it is easier to convince people they should believe in a system that would redistribute the wealth of America to working class Americans. The minute you extend that system elsewhere, it become apparent to the working class that some of their wealth will be redistributed to the poor of other countries.

Update: The antiglobalization nuts rioted in Hong Kong today.

Hundreds of protesters broke through police lines and came close to storming into the WTO's meeting today, but security forces scattered the crowd with tear gas in central Hong Kong.

It was the worst street violence the city has experienced in decades, and police quickly locked the doors to the convention center, where trade ministers from around the world were in the final hours of a six-day negotiation.

Apparently most of the protestors are from South Korea, and many of them are described as farmers.
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