Global Perspectives
By A. D. Freudenheim

5 November 2000

Globalization is the consummate political and economic movement of the center. It seeks to create greater personal freedoms within the construct of the modern nation-state, and it pursues its goals through marketing efforts as relentless on the part of government as on the side of corporations. As a movement, globalization's political aims flow from its economic pursuits; in this, it sees the satisfaction of individual human needs and the exercise of human rights as the ability to buy and sell consumer goods. In order to succeed, globalization requires the constant creation of new and growing markets.

The world-wide voices of the left would have us believe that the biggest danger of globalization, as a policy established by First World corporations and endorsed by their governments, is that it is simply a right-wing conspiracy to take over the world and dominate or subjugate the many on behalf of the few. A giant corporate machine: the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, they argue, through financial policies that demand financial dependence and spending on Western goods. The organized left displayed these views in Seattle, Prague, and elsewhere in the last 12 months, as large protest movements appeared to shout down - if not shut down - the economic policies of the First World governments, embodied in the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and occasionally the United Nations. The impact of these policies, the left points out, can be seen visibly in countries in Africa, desperate to pay off the loans they carry, unable to re-evaluate how best to serve their populations when burdened by this financial weight. Back off, they say - the benefits your money brings do not outweigh the dangers.

On the right or reactionary side of the spectrum, the belief is that globalization is in fact a massive leftist front, a new guise and a new voice for Marxist doctrine, for those who wish to destroy our individual human rights or the uniqueness of our national cultures. These reactionary fears are evidenced in the likes of Pat Buchanan, running for president of the United States on a platform that would save for Americans jobs that Americans no longer want, and would make us more insular and more protected from outside influences or involvements. Buchanan wants the benefits of open markets (more export income for us) without any of the sacrifices that would need be made (like lower tariffs on imports from other countries). France has seen similar movements, ranging from the extremist politics of Le Pen and the "National Front," which would throw most immigrants out of the country, to the more mainstream academic institutions which have invaded the political realm in order to protect the French language from the creeping destruction of English phrases. "Les pommes frites" cannot become "French fries" without a commensurate loss of national identity.

In this analysis, both sides have valid points since economic freedom is only one kind of freedom. Further, as our world unites and becomes smaller and more accessible, more components of our national identities fall prey to the urge to be like everyone else (a fairly human desire). Yet both of these perspectives miss a larger issue: what's dangerous is the inherent cynicism of globalization; it's a movement that cannot rest on equal populations. In order to create and sustain the development of new markets, what globalization requires is not true peace, but a cycle of conflict and resolution. It requires underdeveloped countries seeking to bolster their industrial sectors, and it requires developed countries with service economies that need to import ever-greater numbers of products. At a certain stage, these countries and markets must almost switch positions; in order to sustain new development - and as a result, new buying power - the mighty must fall and go through a process of re-building - financed largely by the governments whose populations reap the real rewards of their corporations' efforts.

This would seem almost symbiotic, were it not for the sense that too often we value life only as a rhetorical flourish. The destruction of the former Yugoslavia today will turn it into a major market tomorrow. Preventative medicine and education in Southern Africa a decade ago might have saved millions of lives; but the rising death toll and millions infected with AIDS means pharmaceutical dollars in the coming years. The real value of a "global" human life, it seems, is not in its earning power but in its spending strength, particularly its spending beyond what is required for subsistence. It's the urge to buy, the opportunity to let ourselves be sold on things we do not really need, of which we must truly be wary. Those of us who think that our governmental interests will not eventually allow this cycle of destruction and reconstruction to be turned back on ourselves should think again. The governments will not protect us - we must protect ourselves.

You are what you eat.

Copyright 2000, by A. D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired!