Globalization: Humanity's Great Experiment

By Wishard, Wm. Van Dusen | The Futurist, October 1999 | Go to article overview
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Globalization: Humanity's Great Experiment

Wishard, Wm. Van Dusen, The Futurist

Harmonizing the world's separate economies, governments, and cultures will be one of humanity's most ambitious efforts.

The world has embarked on the most ambitious collective experiment in history: globalization. If it succeeds, humanity may enter an epoch of opportunity and prosperity for a greater proportion of the earth's inhabitants than ever before. If it fails, it could retard progress for generations.

Globalization is the long-term effort to integrate the global dimensions of life into each nation's economics, politics, and culture. National development has ceased to be an isolated procedure and has now become part of a global process.

Integration of the world economy is what globalization first brings to mind. We have become increasingly acquainted with the benefits and volatility of the free flow of capital, information, goods and services, and people across international borders. With $1.5 trillion daily washing through foreign-exchange markets, integrating nations from Brazil to Indonesia into a world economic system reaches a degree of complexity that would have been inconceivable to the financiers and governments of an earlier America.

The benefits of economic globalization are huge. Access to larger markets spurs innovation. Competition forces companies to increase productivity and keep costs and prices low. Freer trade fosters creativity and innovation.

If current trends continue, today's roughly $7 trillion world export of goods and services will top $11 trillion by 2005, according to Business Week. World trade's share of GDP 20 years ago was just over 9%. In another six years it will be over 24%.

This new global economic order is made possible by computers and telecommunications, satellite communication, the Internet, and the World Wide Web. But equally important have been the spread of free market capitalism, deregulation, global investment, privatization, and the recognition of the value of an open society. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that such globalization will increase the size of the "globally contested economy" from 15% to 60% of the world economy over the next 25 years.

Economic globalization has inevitably led to political globalization. Already we see national sovereignty diminishing. European nations surrender sovereignty in order to form a more perfect economic union. The International Monetary Fund dictates economic policies to nations from Russia to Indonesia. The United Nations and NATO intervene in the internal affairs of autonomous nations such as Iraq and Yugoslavia. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former secretary-general of the United Nations, writes, "It is undeniable that the centuries-old doctrine of absolute and exclusive sovereignty no longer stands. A major intellectual requirement of our time is to rethink the question of sovereignty." Adds Bronislaw Geremek, Poland's foreign minister, "Relations between nations can no longer be founded on respect for sovereignty - they must be founded on respect for human rights."

As non-Western nations experiment with global capitalism, age-old social structures are being uprooted in the search for new forms of competition, regulation, and social safety nets. In some nations, the traditional sanctity of government authority is eroding as individual freedom advances.

Other nations are asking whether the dictates of the market threaten their fragile experiments with democracy as governments are increasingly pressured by global investors and enterprises.

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