2. Economics of Globalization: Good or Bad Consequences?

Article excerpt

It may seem too simplistic to ask the question about outcomes in dichotomous terms of good or bad when most scholars recognize that the outcomes are a mixture of consequences that come from a very complex process we call globalization. This is not done to limit discussion but to highlight from the beginning that the discourse on globalization is a contentious one because it involves values closely held by ordinary people as well as by experts. The global markets have consequences that affect people in their livelihoods, their religious values, and their identities--and people, beginning to recognize this, eagerly enter the debate about policy. One needs only to look at a country like Argentina to see the national attention that monetary policy has garnered or at how the NAFTA treaty affects the everyday lives of Mexicans to understand that the economic policies of governments have become part of the national consciousness through the political and media discourses in these countries. We will examine several positions below to understand how economics intersects with both communication media and with peoples' everyday lives.

Friedman (1999) has best expressed the demands and rewards of the new global market in his popular book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He argues that the real change for nations in the 1990s comes from what he calls the "democratization" of three critical factors in the global economy, i.e., finance, technology, and information. By this he refers to the increasingly borderless flow of capital for business borrowers from banks and other financial institutions who seek out customers on a world-wide scale; the diffusion of the ICTs (like the computer networks or the Internet and Web) that make the markets much more interconnected and frictionless; and finally the global flow of economic information as well as money. All of these have become more widely available to different users around the globe.

Three other concepts are important to understanding Friedman's apologia for the global economy. First, he talks about the "golden straightjacket" that refers to the need for countries to abide by the strict rules of openness of markets, soundness of banking institutions, and honesty in government and the dire consequences for those that break these rules. Second, he refers to the "electronic herd," investors who punish countries for not following the rules of the golden straightjacket by pulling out their investment capital and putting it elsewhere. Finally, he talks about the inevitability of this process--by this he means that countries have to choose to abide by the rules of the game or be marginalized economically.

Friedman does not avoid looking at the negatives of globalization for the world's majority of poor people, the ecology, the world's diverse cultures, and national sovereignty. His belief in the inevitability of the process convinces him that individuals and nations somehow must come to terms with the process and its consequences. Toward the end of the book, he proposes a way out of the dilemma for those threatened by globalization through a kind of global safety net that governments would develop, but the proposals are at best weak and depend on the varied politics of many nations which have not historically made help for citizens available. It also goes against his own argument that in the global economy there is "nobody in charge," and makes it difficult for governments to protect their citizens against this massive but nameless force.

If Friedman serves as the point man for globalization, Aristide, the former president of Haiti, represents a voice of protest against it. In his very brief book, The Eyes of the Heart (2000), he details a case of failure for globalization in one of the poorest countries in the world. In the 1980s and 1990s Haiti was one of the earliest countries to embrace the prescriptions of a free and open market, but this has resulted in an increasing economic dependency without any noticeable benefits. …