Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does Globalization Help or Hurt the World's Poor? -- [ ECONOMICS ]: Scientific American

This article in Scientific American is fantastic. It discusses problems with a black and white point of view about globalization and hits on some of the things Peter and I have been discussing. They also echoed the sentiment Dr. Powell discussed in his sweatshop presentation. Overall, its an important call for balance and good judgement about policy creation and protestation.

The article highlights indirectly how colored the discussion of globalization is by money; poverty, financial institutions, etc. It was definately out of the scope of the article, but I'd like to find more about other aspects of globalization. I also wonder if the nature of the collective discussion contributes to the polarization of views.


  1. Liz,

    The whole concept of globalization and its benefits and impact is a fascinating one. One of the things we are seeing in East Asia now is the huge challenge that confronts countries as they try to balance economic growth with a need to look after the poorest citizens, with a need to protect the environment, and a continuing need to create jobs. And then, of course, there is the challenge to do all this and preserve your national identity and culture. It’s not easy, obviously, and I sense that a number of countries in Asia are now struggling to cope with the impact of economic globalization at a time when their political systems (and hence the way information and power are dispersed) are increasingly pluralistic and open. Governments can become caught between winners and losers from globalization, which can make important policy choices (like tax reform or reducing subsidies to the middle class) more difficult. At the same time, if these choices are not made, a country can become less competitive and see its growth rates slow, an outcome which has other domestic consequences.

    Again, this is a challenge for an organization like the World Bank to cope with. We want to help countries grow and reduce poverty, but we also want to help ensure that growth reaches the poor and that it doesn’t damage the environment. In the end, I think it’s fair to say that we can offer some ideas and advice, but each country will follow its own path, as it should.

    To give you an idea of how rapidly this is taking place in Asia, I can send you an interesting little note from an economist at Standard Chartered Bank, which looks at “China years” – an attempt to compare the pace of change in different countries based on growth rates. Not sure if I can paste it here though so may need an email address.

    You might also find two distinctly non-economic books worth reading, to get a very human view of what globalization means (and its limits). I certainly found them quite challenging. They are The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski and The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia--A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy by Robert D. Kaplan.

    Keep on exploring this. If your end product is a written report or something that can be shared, I’d be very interested to read it and share it with the people I work with.


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