Trade & investment

Victims of the refusal to globalize

  • 9 February 2000

Responding to opponents of globalization, Martin Wolf says in the Financial Times that the chief failure of the past two decades was not that integration went too far, but that it has not, as yet, gone far enough. This has left too many people marginalized.

Mr Wolf adds: “If the critics now persuade governments to turn their economies inwards, they will have thrown away the world’s best hope of a sustained reduction in poverty and global inequality.”

The FT writer, under the headline “The big lie of global inequality,” quotes a recent study, which he says lists the least economically free economies. He asks: “are these impoverished countries victims of globalization?” His answer is: “Hardly – they are victims of their refusal to globalize.”

Martin Wolf castigates the many critics who recommend a complete halt to globalization. He says: “If they succeed, they condemn most of humanity to perpetual poverty. The question is whether they know this, in which case they are wicked, or do not, in which case they are foolish.”

More defensible are those who accept international integration, while arguing for higher global standards, Mr Wolf continues. “Yet these are at best irrelevant. The world’s poor do not work for multinational companies or in modern export industries. They are subsistence farmers or casual labourers. What do core labour standards have to do with their lives?”

Mr Wolf says the answer is “nothing”. What matters instead is the speed with which superior jobs expand in the modern economy and this depends in turn on successful exploitation of global opportunities.