Read this. You have my permission.
Visit any restaurant in any city in the world and it’s almost guaranteed that they will sell a Coca-Cola or Pepsi product. This is globalization at work. Since as long ago as the voyages of Christopher Columbus, globalization has created an interconnectedness of societies and economies. Today, it is responsible for the spread of fast-food chains, retail stores, and various products across the world. According to James Rubenstein, author of An Introduction to Human Geography, globalization is any action or process that “involves the entire world and results in making something worldwide in scope” (Rubenstein). Globalization benefits both MDCs and LDCs by encouraging economic growth, promoting democracy, and fostering cultural diversity. Because of this globalization has improved the lives of people across the world.
Globalization is the force that causes increasing connections between different regions, societies, or economies. According to New York Times author Thomas Friedman, globalization started in 1492 with the voyages of Christopher Columbus
(Friedman). Soon after Columbus, European powers began to spread their influence across the world. They conquered native peoples and established colonies across the Americas. Later, in the Scramble for Africa, European nations established imperial empires by taking control of Africa. This is the foundation of modern day globalization. As people in new lands came under the control of foreign powers, the economies and political systems of each became increasingly connected.
Today, the most powerful force of globalization is not imperialism, but free trade. In 1947, the world entered an era of relatively unrestricted trade with the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Because of this, money and goods were able to travel freely between different countries creating an unprecedented connectedness of regional economies that formed one global economy. Today, all countries are affected by globalization. Wealthy countries like the United States are part of the same economy as the poorest countries. This creates a large discrepancy as wealthy countries compete on the same stage as poor countries. In conflicts of interest, it is nearly impossible for a poorer country to win over a richer country. Disgust with this practice has evoked numerous protests across the world. The World Trade Organization is often the target of protests because many people see it as a tool of MDCs to impose their will on LDCs (“Globalization”).
Other disdain for globalization stems from its cultural effects, not its economic effects. Al Qaeda has been particularly active in retaliating against propagators of globalization. In the 9/11 attacks they targeted symbols of American domination of globalization: the world trade center and the pentagon. They see the dissemination of Western culture and politics as deleterious to the preservation of their local culture, and their attacks are motivated by the desire to return to the traditional society that is being erased by globalization.
The biggest benefit of globalization is that it encourages economic development. Recent history shows that countries that have adopted an international trade approach to development (as opposed to a self-sufficiency approach) are far more successful in improving their economies. The international trade approach requires countries to open their economies to international trade by abandoning protective tariffs and eliminating quotas that limit the quantity of imported goods. This exposes domestic industries to foreign competition which is often the cause of their demise; however, it also greatly improves the country’s economy as a whole. The approach to development taken by India proves this point. From the 1960s to the 1990s India established tariffs on the import of goods, supported monopolies in various industries, and restricted foreign companies from setting up factories in India. During that period, India’s GDP grew by 4% per year, nearly half that of other Asian countries that had promoted the international trade model. However, after India eliminated their barriers to international trade during the 1990s, India’s GDP increase rate jumped to 6% per year, a 150% increase in GDP growth rate from years before (Rubenstein).
India is not the only country that has benefited from increased international trade. The four Asian Tigers experienced remarkable economic growth after World War II by promoting international trade. Between 1960 and 1990, GDP increased 8% percent per year in Taiwan and 9% per year in South Korea. Furthermore, the World Bank found that GDP has grown more than four times as fast in countries strongly oriented towards international trade than in countries with significant trade barriers (Rubenstein). Therefore, it is beneficial for a country to encourage international trade by removing trade barriers because it significantly improves the country’s economy. Thus because free trade is the most powerful force of globalization and because free trade drives economic development, globalization encourages economic development. This is true mostly for LDCs. MDCs actually tend to see a little of the opposite effect as jobs are outsourced to foreign countries.
Another benefit of globalization is that it promotes democracy. The basic logic is simple: “In financially open economies, the government and central bank must be transparent in order to retain the confidence of the markets, and transparency spells doom for autocratic regimes” (Eichengreen). Real world evidence supports this claim as well. From 1975 to 2002, the number of democratic countries increased fourfold. During that same period global trade as a percentage of GDP increased almost 12% (Eichengreen). This alone does not prove a positive relationship between globalization and democracy; however, the studies of J Ernesto Lopez-Cordova, senior country economist for Mexico at the Inter-American Development Bank, also support this claim. He concludes that “there is adequate information available to argue that international trade, or at the very least, fundamental factors that drive openness to trade can help increase the process of building and consolidating democracy” (Lopez-Cordova). This promotion of democracy also stems from the prospering economy that globalization entails. As people gain more economic clout, they begin to demand more basic democratic rights (“Globalization”). Therefore, globalization promotes democracy which benefits both MDCs and LDCs.
Also, globalization benefits both MDCs and LCDs by fostering cultural diversity. When two societies interact, they exchange various cultural aspects from food to art to language. This is why it is easy to buy Sushi in France, find an English speaker in Japan, or listen to American music in Mexico. Some people argue that globalization eliminates cultural diversity by creating uniform culture across the world. This argument is deceptive because while globalization does create a trend towards a singular world culture, it also greatly increases the scope of that culture. For example, modern European music preferences no longer consist only of distinctly European forms of music, but instead encompass a wide spectrum of genres. This is shown by the fact that the Itunes store has different pages for 23 different genres ranging from hip-hop to Latino to classical.
Also, the increase in markets has had a tendency to increase artistic creativity. George Mason University Economist Tyler Cowen espouses this belief. He claims that “when two cultures trade with each other they tend to expand the opportunities available to individual artists.” Pygmy society in the Congo is a perfect example of this. Self-sufficient Pygmy society only has one form of music whereas other nearby societies with access to a variety of markets have a variety of musical forms (“Globalization and Culture”). This results from the fact that globalization increases cultural diversity. Artists with access to a greater diversity of markets in turn create a greater diversity of art. Thus, globalization benefits MDCs and LDCs by fostering cultural diversity.
Because of these benefits to the economies, political systems, and cultural diversity of the world’s countries, globalization has generally had a positive impact on people’s lives around the world.
Economically, the expanding economies of internationally trading countries has resulted in an increase in jobs and a decrease in poverty in LDCs and a decrease in the cost of products for people in MDCs. Poverty rates have climbed the most in countries where there are the greatest trade barriers. In contrast, countries that have fostered international trade such as Chile, Mexico, China, and South Korea have seen great increases in per capita income (Hansen). Thus, in LDCs globalization has tended to improve the standard of living by enabling more people to earn more money which they can then spend on education and healthcare.
Globalization has also been the cause of the phenomenon known as the new international division of labor which is “the selective transfer of some jobs to LDCs” (Rubenstein). Due to this, transnational corporations have been able to reduce the price of goods for people all across the world. With the reduced price of goods, more people now have the ability to buy them which means more people have the capability to improve their lives. Therefore, globalization has improved the lives of people around the world by reducing poverty and decreasing the cost of goods.
The political trend towards democracy encouraged by globalization has also improved the lives of people around the world by reducing social problems. Pete Geddes of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment claims that globalization has helped women to achieve more social and economic freedom. He asserts that “in a competitive, globalized world, the role of women becomes ever more valuable” because countries that traditionally reject the integration of women into the economy can no longer afford to do so if they wish to stay competitive (Geddes). Goldman Sachs vice chairman Robert Hormats also acknowledges that globalization tends to enhance civil liberties. He reasons that “the more closed the economy, the greater the likelihood that very large numbers of citizens suffer from poverty and are deprived of access to the flow of communications, commerce, visitors and ideas that enhance human liberty and creativity” (Hansen). Thus, globalization has improved the lives of people around the world by encouraging increases of the economic freedom of women and by reducing the problems of lack of access to information under authoritarian regimes.
Also, globalization of culture has improved lives of people across the world by increasing cultural diversity in globalized societies. Now more than ever, it is possible to maintain cultural identity in a foreign country due to the technologies of globalization. For example, an immigrant from Spain to America can access a variety of folk culture resources without even having to leave his house. He can watch a variety of Spanish-language TV stations, download any folk culture song off the internet, or talk face-to-face with his relatives in Spain via webcam. Therefore, globalization has improved the lives of people across the world by allowing them to maintain their cultural heritage even while far from their homeland.
Thus, globalization is an extremely powerful force affecting the world today. It can help a country grow economically, promote democracy, and create cultural diversity. Due to these many benefits, globalization has had a primarily positive impact on the lives of people across the world. Nonetheless, opponents of globalization are loud and active. They cast doubt on the future of globalization, although the uncertainty is not whether globalization will continue: attempts to stop it would be futile. The uncertainty is how it will be implemented in the future. It is reasonable to guess that globalization will continue to expand in upcoming years. This is because President Obama intends to cut funding for farm subsidies in the US, a move that would greatly increase foreign competition in the global agricultural market. If Obama achieves his goals, globalization will be seeing a great new boom.