Global Warning

By Buell, John | The Humanist, May-June 1997 | Go to article overview

Global Warning


Buell, John, The Humanist


If a modern-day Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep a decade ago to awaken this month, he would surely be shocked by the stories in his morning newspaper. The absence of the Soviet Union would surely catch his eye. But Rip might also be startled to observe how joyless most citizens of the West have become in the days following the collapse of our erstwhile adversary.

It is hard to remember today how euphoric political, intellectual, and business elites were about the prospects of extending free market institutions to the rest of the globe. The opening of foreign markets was supposed to bring greater prosperity to the peoples of Eastern Europe and, in turn, open up new opportunities for Western businesses. The Japanese intellectual Francis Fukayama was so bold as to proclaim that history had ended; only one model of political economy would endure.

This new global economy, however, has been most successful in bringing Third World inequalities to the United States. Over the last decade, the top 1 percent of American families has seen its share of total national wealth rise from 33 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom 80 percent of families has seen its share of wealth fall from 19 percent to 15 percent. Similarly, the new world economy has not produced the levels of growth long promised as the reward for accepting harsh, free market `reforms." Economies in most of the major industrial democracies are essentially stagnant. Workers and the middle class are restive everywhere.

The explanation of the day among political leaders is that the world is undergoing the costs of "transition" to a more prosperous economic order. On the contrary, I would argue that, without the breakup of the Soviet Union, the threat of nuclear annihilation has diminished somewhat, only to be replaced by enormous economic and social risks.

The new free trade regimes have inordinately strengthened the rights of business elites to relocate factories throughout the globe. These new corporate freedoms carry risks seldom discussed or even recognized. One consequence of these freedoms has been a movement in the European social democracies to scale back a range of benefits to workers, including unemployment compensation, health, and social security programs. Although these benefits remain more generous in Western Europe than in the United States, they face increasing business opposition everywhere. Communism's demise plays a role here too. With the decline in the military threat of the Soviet Union and no possibility of discontented workers receiving its aid or being tempted by its example, European leaders feel no reluctance about shredding the safety net. When grass-roots groups protest cutbacks, they meet a constant response: the demands of global competition require a low-cost workforce.

Russia's travails have other economic implications, as well. This nation stands near economic collapse. Stephen Cohen, a Russian studies expert at Princeton University, reports in a recent issue of the Nation that American media have barely acknowledged the full dimensions of "insider privatization, impoverishment, and disintegration of the middle class" in Russia. Rather than a future market for our goods, Russia may become a sinkhole for future public and private aid.

As communism and European social democracy unravel the New Deal welfare state, never as fully elaborated as its European counterparts, has virtually collapsed. Fewer than 40 percent of American workers are now covered by unemployment compensation. The success of union-busting campaigns over the last decade leaves only about one in ten private sector workers still unionized. Welfare as an entitlement has been eliminated, and there is enormous pressure to scale back social security and other benefits.

While these trends have obvious implications for social justice, they carry much less noticed risks for international stability. Put simply, the world is engaged in a social experiment as vast as the initial transition to capitalism two centuries ago. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Global Warning
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.