The "Globalization" Process
Change rarely occurs at a constant rate. Recently, physicians have discovered that children develop in a series of "growth spurts." I believe that world trade has developed in much the same way--long lulls punctuated by what I call "great leaps forward." Among the former would be the Middle Ages. Among numerous examples of the latter we might list: the voyages of the Phoenician traders, who exchanged goods and culture throughout the pre- Christian world; the opening of trade with the Orient in the age of Marco Polo; the discovery of the Americas by Columbus; and the subsequent circumnavigation of the globe and colonization of discovered lands and peoples, with their labor, resources and markets. The Industrial Revolution increased the speed and scope of the globalization process, and powered transport--by steam, gasoline and jet engines--accelerated it even more.
On the political side, there was World War I, which left the combatants wearied, but with new knowledge and capacities. An attempted League of Nations failed, and the world drifted into isolation characterized by protectionist tariffs. World War II once again pushed nations, their people and institutions to their limit. But, resolving not to make the punitive mistakes of the prior war, constructive multinational initiatives like the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were pursued. 1 Any one of these events (and certainly the last group, collectively) can be considered a great leap forward. The reason is that they put trade, indeed international trade, on a whole new footing and changed it fundamentally for the future.