Globalisation Conveniently Works When People Lose

07/09/2020

I am reading Globalization and Its Discontents (damn Americanisation’s), the updated version with the advent of Donald Trump, written by Joseph E. Stiglitz. In it he describes how globalisation has seemingly failed the world, producing discontents with the system. In the 2002 edition, it was mostly the developing world that suffered, but more recently developed countries have increasingly opposed globalisation. Stiglitz argued this is due to gross mismanagement, but as he admits later, even well managed globalisation results in “losers” in the system.

I should preface this by saying that the vision Stiglitz has for a proper globalised world is reasonable enough. It’s a case of capitalism still being capitalism (i.e. not great), but done in a way that ensures poor people don’t just die or get violently exploited because why not. He still believes in massive global institutions like the IMF (although he does criticise them harshly) and the World Bank, relies heavily upon the honesty of corporations and States, and obviously does not even consider the concept of worker ownership – to him “socialism/communism” fell with the USSR.

But even if his conception of a properly managed and globalised world were to exist, he acknowledged there were problems:

“In fact, honest academics always pointed out that there would be winners and losers in globalization. When globalization worked well, the standard theory for globalization went, the winners gained enough so that they could compensate the losers and everyone would be better off.” [My emphasis in both cases].

The key word, as Stiglitz himself immediately admits, is could, because history and the current system quite clearly shows that people on the lower end of the wealth spectrum – the losers – are much worse off whilst the rich continue to generate soaring profits. He calls this an “inconvenient truth”, one that apparently the “honest” academics spoke about, but which many (apparently the ones loud enough to be heard) ignored or obfuscated. Milton Friedman springs to mind, although Stiglitz does refer to Chile (Friedman’s happy little South American “free market” laboratory under Pinochet) as a “success”.

I can’t help but think of the old argument that if wealth needs to be redistributed, it wasn’t being distributed properly in the first place. Stiglitz’s self-critique of globalisation, the fact that his ideal system requires there be people who would lose and puts faith in those who win to act out of the kindness of their hearts (because obviously governments don’t do much) is bizarre. You can be as honest as you want about how unbalanced your system is, regardless of its feasibility compared to other systems, but the fact remains that it is unbalanced.

Even if it did work perfectly as intended, the losers are still dependent on people, factors, and decisions outside of their control, which is one of the major talking points of anti-globalisation arguments. In both a political and workplace context, they are at the mercy of a system that is imposed upon them, and considering that system is basically an open invitation to abuse the rules, it’s no wonder discontent has grown.

I am in favour of a globalised world – there is no escaping the reality that we will become more and more connected and intertwined as time goes on. But globalisation in a capitalist framework is rife with corruption and suffering, and even the preferable variants of it leave people behind who have no way to remedy their situation. There is a book by Noam Chomsky called Internationalization or Extinction that I want to get at some point, because given the name it probably describes a much fairer system than that of the average World Bank economist.

I just thought it was worth highlighting this critique of globalisation brought forward by Stiglitz, and pushing it a bit further to suggest that there may be a better framework to implement it than the limited view he appears to have. So far, I would recommend the book Globalization and Its Discontents, even if just to understand the (decent) capitalist perspective on it, and for its condemnations and analysis of how Trump’s policies will worsen, not alleviate, the issues caused by mismanagement.

Liked this? Read The Contradiction of the Zero-Sum Game

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The Contradiction of the Zero-Sum Game

03/09/2020

There is a contradiction in the way the proponents of capitalism approach the concept of the “zero-sum game”, the notion that wealth created or owned in one place must come at the expense of others. This conversation has taken many different forms, from the power of the British Empire on a global scale to national debates over the merits of immigration and welfare. But one on side of the debate, there appears to be a glaring inconsistency in their logic.

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The Cheese Is Capitalist

08/08/2020

I am once more late to the party of outrage and debate on this topic, but recently there was social upheaval over the name of a cheese brand. With or without prior context, you can probably guess who took which side and what arguments were used for or against the pending change. But I just want to make a quick point, mostly to call out a frequently recurring criticism about the motives of corporations to instead smack them back down with an entirely separate criticism. Sorry to upset some people, but Coon cheese – the cheese of contention – is capitalist.

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Is Renewable Energy Not the Capitalist Dream?

19/05/2020

I am currently reading Merchants of Doubt, a 2010 book written by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway about how a number of global issues have been corrupted by a small number of “experts” and powerful special interests. The topics covered are quite varied, from smoking, to environmental concerns like acid rain, to Reagan’s Star Wars plans, etc. Probably the most important one is climate change, which I have not reached yet, but it’s an obvious one. But why? The free market loving capitalists should be flocking to support renewable energy, not because they give a shit about the planet, but because it could be the freest market ever created.

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David Hannan’s Arguments Against Socialism

12/04/2020

I have recently stumbled into a few videos online with pro-capitalist arguments, decrying socialist ideas and encouraging free markets to take full form. The one thing I have found listening to them, whether their arguments have any legitimate points within, is their selective examples and, at times, complete disfiguration of facts. One such video was an argument about why socialism did not work by a man (who I know nothing about beyond this) called Daniel Hannan. I haven’t written in a while, so what better way to get back into it than by questioning this random guy’s points?

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In Defence of Reforms

17/11/2019

I have slowly been reading through Alexander Berkman’s The ABC of Anarchism and it’s been quite interesting thus far. Reading the chapter on the reformer and politician, however, I come across one of the few disagreements with his ideas. It’s a relatively small point, but he condemns the reformer for essentially not being radical enough, suggesting that only major movements or revolution could make the necessary changes. I do agree, to an extent, but reforms shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

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Capitalism Hasn’t Changed

09/11/2019

I’ve recently started reading The ABC of Anarchism (originally Now and After and What Is Communist Anarchism) by Alexander Berkman, and while a lot of the references made do show the age of the book, published in 1929, there are still many relevant observations and similarities to the modern age. The main one, with its many facets, is that capitalism hasn’t really changed much over the years, other than finding more efficient methods of concentrating even more wealth into fewer hands.

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The Fate of Blizzard

16/10/2019

As a massive fan of World of Warcraft and the Warcraft universe in general, it was incredibly disappointing – but not exactly surprising – when Blizzard took a kneejerk reaction after Hearthstone champion Blitzchung voiced solidarity with Hong Kong. The fallout of this event has hit Blizzard hard, but there are some important things to keep in mind while this continues to play out.

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Why Anarchism?

A year ago, I started this website, almost gave up on it immediately, and was pretty sure I didn’t want anyone except a close friend or two to know about it. Now, it’s been a whole year, I’ve obviously kept going with it, and while I hate doing so out of fear of pushing my own writing, I have no real issues telling people about it if the topic is relevant. Recently I was asked a simple question: why anarchism? The answer seems just as simple: it makes sense.

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“Left”? What “Left”?

25/09/2019

Readers who have been on this site before may know I am not a fan of the ‘left vs right’ dynamic that is used to divide public opinion over irrelevant concerns, mostly because they are extremely subjective. Specifically, no one can tell whether it refers to social or economic policies, and many people who use the economic factors to label things often get it entirely wrong.

But let’s pretend the terms have meaning for a moment.

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