Promethean America

By Kane, Tim | Harvard International Review, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Promethean America


Kane, Tim, Harvard International Review


David Held's "Toward a New Consensus: Answering the Dangers of Globalization," (Summer 2005), is at once ominous and ambiguous. While globalization and US President George W. Bush are castigated, there is precious little substance for the conclusion that both have "left the world with severe inequalities." Held fails to understand that human history is an uninterrupted story of inequality, injustice, and poverty. Only in the last century have we begun to turn the tide.

Held condemns US economic and security strategies, but his characterizations are caricatures. He asserts a Washington Consensus view that "a positive role for government is to be fundamentally distrusted" and that the prevailing security doctrine constitutes "a return to the view of international relations as a 'war of all against all.'" These provocative statements ring hollow when backed by ambiguities such as this sentence: "A combination of developments points toward a very disturbing combination of negative factors."

Serious analysis of the global scene begins with facts--namely, that 17 percent of the world's population lived on less than a single US dollar per day in 1970 (in inflation-adjusted dollars using purchasing power parity terms). Thirty years later, the proportion was seven percent. This is what globalization hath wrought. Held offers no similar statistics to support his viewpoint. Instead, he raises the specter of rising global inequality (though one finds it hard to believe poor Africans resent the world's richest man, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, whose foundation has spent billions of dollars donating vaccines in the last year). The story of recent years is that the world's poorest countries are catching up, not falling behind. Inequality is losing its salience as a critique.

Regardless, Held maintains hostility toward foreign capital and skepticism of markets and trade. He asserts that the necessary precondition for economic growth is "state-led economic and industrial policy. …

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