What's the Beef with Globalization

Reply Fri 21 Jul, 2006 06:55 pm
I am most interested in getting responses to this post from people who identify as Democrats, although I welcome anyones input (I think I already understand the conservative position on this). Some posts here and elsewhere from people who otherwise lean to the liberal side of things I find perplexing.

Why does it seem that some people have a strong reflexive response to globalism?

I understand and share concerns about multinational corporations taking advantage of workers... but the political views against globalization lead to positions that make this more of a problem.

For example... I work in IT (an industry that it very often referred to as under threat from globalization). I am a programmer and there is little reason that where I am sitting has anything to do with 95% of my job.

More and more, IT is an industry that has no borders. American workers are paid with money that comes from overseas (think of how many countries use Microsoft for example) and Foreign workers also make money from American users.

I don't see how an IT job is an American job (or any other kind of job) and certainly foreigner have the right to compete in the international market just as we do. I am confident in my skills and willing and able to compete. And it is not just competition. I have worked with foreign born workers and have profitted from products from outside of the US. I have even collaborated with non-American peers. I found this more than acceptable. It was profitable in more ways than one.

Now there is one problem. I don't want to compete against people who don't have the same opportunities and rights that I do. If someone can't switch jobs freely (as I can) or can't demand more pay or is forced to work in poor conditions... this hurts me as it puts a downward pressure on my wages and my working conditions.

I don't think it is right to think that American workers are somehow more deserving of have some inherent right to jobs in an international marketplace. Even if I did, it is simply impossible in our connected world.

So my main concern is that all workers have the right to look for the highest wage available and to demand good working conditions.

So why the fuss about H1-B visas. This takes people with talent (who I don't mind working with or competing against) and brings them to a place where they have good wages and legal protections. This means instead of competing against people with limited opportunity, I am working with or competing with them as equals. They have the same opportunities and wages and rights that I do and companies can't take advantage of them?

If you want to protect workers, I don't think building a wall is a good idea at all. You need to work to promote the rights and freedom of all workers.

Globalization is a fact not a problem. We should be focussing on ensuring that in the process of globalization the rights of all workers (not just Americans) are protected.
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Reply Fri 21 Jul, 2006 07:07 pm
I have two friends on H-1 visas (I think that's where they are now....). I see no problem with it. They have to prove that they are the only one qualified to do the job - that no american citizens want the job and can do it as well as or better than them. I think the restrictions are too harsh for them. I am frustrated for my friends that they seem to be getting shafted during this new world of immigration.

As for how I feel about globalization.... when I first heard the concept (mid-80s) I thought it sounded great. Then I listened to skeptics, and sort of drifted between great and maybe not so great for years. I have always felt that globalization is unavoidable. So, I look for universal trade-rights and support those.

My sister works for a company which computes salaries for people working over-seas. They have a huge database which is updated multiple times each year. When a company in Japan, or England, or America wants to send an employee to any other country, the company tells them what their salary as an ex-pat should be so that they keep their standard of living on par. I think the same sort of info should be used to provide income to people in other countries when they work for multinational corps.

Am I making sense? It's hot and I've had some wine.

So...... if a living wage in cambridge is (what was it....?) 14 bucks an hour and that living wage is 2 bucks an hour in mumbai, employees' pay should reflect that. Also, all benefit packages should be similarly provided to any employee regardless of what country they work in.
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Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2006 02:52 am
It's a very fraught issue in academia. Most of the sloganeering against globalization that I encounter comes from anthropologists, and the gist of the argument, as far as I can tell, is that globalization is wiping out cultural uniqueness and replacing it with one uber-Western culture.

There are lots of unspoken assumptions here, of course: for example, it is considered self-evident that globalization is something that is imposed upon, never embraced by, an "endangered" culture--something which is flatly contradicted by, say, present-day Tibet. One of the paradoxes about this kind of reasoning is that it comes out of a desire to protect the rights of an endangered culture but amounts to the anthropologist claiming that he or she knows better than they do what is best for that culture.
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ebrown p
Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2006 08:07 am
That's an interesting issue Shapeless. Most of the discussions on "globalization" that I have been part of involved how to protect American workers and American culture from people from other countries.

Many people outside the US are in a position where they can see the impact of different parts of the "American" culture-- and can choose what parts of they want to incorporate and which parts they want to leave behind. Likewise Americans (or any other modern culture) can look at other cultures and take parts they like.

I don't think this is a bad thing. I love dancing Salsa. I love eating Dim Sum. My kids love Anime. I choose to reject accupuncture (I can't swallow the idea the poking needles in me is a good thing), but I have a friend who swears by it.

But as a modern citizen of the world, I can take parts of other cultures that I think will make my life better. This enriches me and I don't believe for a second that this makes me any less American.

Any member of a modern culture knows enough to understand what they are getting and what they are losing when they accept a part of another culture. I remember reading about how Baywatch was very popular in conservative countries (and this was a bit of a scandal). But each person knows what they are getting... and how it fits (or doesn't fit) in their own cultural identity. This isn't forced on anyone, each person can make a decision.

I appreciate that I, as an idividual, have the right and the ability to make these decisions. Other people should have the same ability and I don't mind sharing the better (or more interesting) parts of my culture.

A much more difficult problem is how to interract with "primitive" cultures (I don't like or want to express the condescention implied by "primitive" but don't know how else to express this idea)

How do you give someone a choice between cultural ideas when in order to learn enough to make an informed decision you need to have already given up beliefs and lifestyle?

I think there is a fundamental difference between modern and "primitive" culures. I certainly don't think that the US, or any culture that includes interactions with the world needs to be protected from choices.
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Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2006 09:17 am
The RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce) ran an article some months ago closely related to this topic. The article is partly about the cultural practices of a town in Ghana, but is broadly about the politics of globalization in general. Here are some excerpts:


When people talk of the homogeneity produced by globalisation, what they are talking about is this: even here, the villagers will have radios (though the language will be local); you will be able to find a bottle of Guinness or Coca-Cola (as well as of Star or Club, Ghana's own fine lagers). But has access to these things made the place more homogeneous or less? And what can you tell about people's souls from the fact that they drink Coca-Cola?

It's true that the enclaves of homogeneity you find these days - in Asante as in Pennsylvania - are less distinctive that they were a century ago, but mostly in good ways. More of them have access to effective medicines. More of them have access to clean drinking water, and more of them have schools. Where, as is still too common, they don't have these things, it's something not to celebrate but to deplore. And whatever loss of difference there has been, they are constantly inventing new forms of difference: new hairstyles, new slang, even, from time to time, new religions. No one could say that the world's villagers are becoming anything like the same.


The full text can be found here: The Case for Contamination
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