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In Defence of Globlization

In the passionate debate that currently rages over globalization, critics have been heard blaming it for a
host of ills afflicting poorer nations, everything from child labor to environmental degradation and cultural
homogenization. Now Jagdish Bhagwati, the internationally renowned economist, takes on the critics,
revealing that globalization, when properly governed, is in fact the most powerful force for social good in
the world today. Drawing on his unparalleled knowledge of international and development economics,
Bhagwati explains why the "gotcha" examples of the critics are often not as compelling as they seem.
With the wit and wisdom for which he is renowned, Bhagwati convincingly shows that globalization is part
of the solution, not part of the problem.
Bhagwati presents his bias in the title of the book, however, he gives a strong, data-driven argument in
favor of globalization. For one looking to understand the side of the pro-globalizer, this book offers a good
overview of the complaints that critics of globalization voice and the reasons that Bhagwati feels
globalization is beneficial for economic growth.
Today, the principal focus of anti-globalizers is not the effect of globalization on economic prosperity but
its harm to social agendas such as the reduction of child labour and poverty, the maintenance of rich-
country labour and environmental standards, the exercise of national sovereignty, the maintenance of
local culture, and women’s rights and welfare. The contrary view, which I defend in this essay, is that
economic globalization advances the achievement of that social agenda. But we must ask: what
institutional and policy framework is necessary to improve on the benign outcomes that globalization
There is little about In Defense of Globalization that can be described in less than superlative terms. This
book by super-distinguished economist Jagdish Bhagwati should be on every policy maker's table, and
especially those who argue about the need for a "human face" to economic reforms.

What Bhagwati demonstrates clinically, but with oodles of wit, is that globalisation has brought
development and unprecedented rates of growth to poor countries and the poor peoples of the world.

The guys with the ugly faces are those who have argued against globalisation. These hapless types are
the target of Bhagwati's scalpel, and at the end of the marshalling of logic, facts and figures, the human
face is no longer recognisable. The reason why globalisation has been under attack is a subject more for
psychiatrists than social scientists.

Especially if the presumed losers of globalisation are the poor of the world. Did poor countries grow
slower with globalisation? No. Bhagwati demonstrates that they grew faster. Did such growth "trickle
down" to the poor members of developing societies? Yes, so much so that world inequality actually began
to diminish, reversing a century-old trend.

In the poor countries, did globalisation accelerate the wages of the poor? Yes.Was such acceleration
faster than that of rich individuals in developing societies? Yes. Woman does not live by bread alone.

Did gender equality in schooling improve in the globalisation years? Yes. Did mean wages of women rise
faster than for men? Yes, in both parts of the world, developing and developed. It is these facts that make
Bhagwati's contest with the attackers of globalisation so one-sided. He has theory, he has evidence and
he has logic.

The book is likely to become the ultimate reference to put down any crazy notion possessed by the
antiglobalisers- growth, inequality, discrimination, social justice, gender, pollution, environment or
agricultural subsidies in the rich countries.

Indeed, after reading the evidence one wonders about the intellectual possessions of those who have
attacked globalisation-did they do so on the basis of poetry? How could that be, since among the
distinguished lieutenants in David's army were (and still are) reputed academics and distinguished left-
wing NGOs?

But the evidence shown by Bhagwati, on every empirical issue and more, suggests that even the poetry
was not very good. It is the subject of another book, perhaps by a psychiatrist, about the antecedents of
the anti-globalisation movement. But even economics sheds some light on why Goliath has been
indulging in fictitious poetry.

The plain simple reality is that the rich countries are relatively losing out-to globalisation. The average
wage in the developed, western countries has stayed constant or declined over the past quarter-century.
This is in contrast not only to what had happened in the previous 25 years, but the previous 250.

This is a shock to the system and the developed world. The people leading the anti-globalisation
movement are likely to belong to the large, educated and to be perennially-middle-class societies of
Europe and North America.

They are articulate, they are angry and they are unabashedly supported by the unionised right and the
hippie left. (Both groups have believed that the work ethic is for other, lesser mortals.) It is this support
that gives the anti-globalisation movement its colour and its reliance on hysterical poetry to make
empirical observations.

Which is why the match between Bhagwati and the anti-globalisers is akin to a WWF contest. What is it
about globalisation that allows such desirable outcomes? From Adam Smith to Bhagwati, economists
have argued about the merits of trade for growth and development and trend towards equality in incomes.
Bhagwati's distinguished scholarship awaits a Nobel prize.

The fact that the future belongs to the presently poor suggests that the most important issue in this
century is not why globalisation is bad, but how it can be managed to deliver welfare gains to all. That
book waits to be written. It is unfair to expect one book to answer all the important questions.

The topic of globalization can trigger a wide range of reactions when raised in a conversation. To
its advocates, globalization represents progress,economic growth, and hope for a better future. To its
critics, however, it signifies greed, exploitation, and corruption. This diversity of views is perhaps due to
the fact that globalization is inherently complex and involves different economic and social nuances at
various national and global levels. Understanding globalization, therefore, requires one to see how
all of these factors interrelate and influence each other. One text that does an effective job of exploring
these complex relationships is Jagdish Bhagwati’s In Defense of Globalization. As the book’s title
indicates, Bhagwati has a definite opinion on the globalization debate. Yet unlike many other texts on this
subject, Bhagwati’s presentation does not address the issue from a primarily emotional perspective.
Moreover, he does not present his point as right and those of his opponents as wrong. Rather, he focuses
on how debates over globalization are generally a matter of scope. That is, both sides often focus too
narrowly on local issues without realizing how those issues relate to a greater global context. It is
Bhagwati’s belief that such an expanded scope reveals globalization has its benefits and its limitations.
Through adopting this scope, advocates and critics gain a framework for appreciating globalization’s
advantages and effectively addressing its shortcomings. Throughout the book, Bhagwati uses the same
basic approach to examine topics involved in the globalization debate. Essentially, he begins by

presenting a claim made by critics of globalization .(e.g., globalization drives down wages).

It should be noted that while Bhagwati is a proponent of globalization, he also recognizes the negative
effects it can have. For example, while he argues that some of the environmental concerns related to
globalization might be misperceptions, he does admit instances in which globalization did have a negative
effect on certain locales (e.g., the effects of commercial shrimp farming on coastal India). When
discussing these limitations, however, Bhagwati adheres to his basic premise that a global perspective
allows us to recognize these detrimental consequences and provides the understanding needed to
correct such situations. Such admissions reveal that while neither side in the globalization debate is
totally right, if bothsides adopt a global perspective, they could engage in a more effective dialogue to
identify and address problems. This macro perspective makes In Defense ofGlobalization important to
technical communicators for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the field of technical
communication is driven by the technology market. Practitioners and academics therefore need to keep
track of patterns related to this market, for these patterns will affect future practicesin the field. Bhagwati’s
book helps the reader realize that technical communicators can no longer think of such markets in terms
of domestic users. Sucha perspective would contribute to an organization’s localization and translation
activities by having technical communicators think in terms of a global user as well as a local or a national

Second, and equally important, In Defense of Globalization provides insights into the future of
international outsourcing. While Bhagwati makes little direct mention of outsourcing, his discussions
of topics such as labor movements and international wages provide readers with a picture of the global
environment in which outsourcing operates. Similarly,the global perspective that Bhagwati advocates
provides readers with a mechanism for separating actual trends in outsourcing from unfounded fears.
As a result, technical communicators can better understand what aspects of their jobs might be
outsourced and what tasks would most likely remain at home. Using this perspective, technical
communicators can plan their career development in a way that focuses on “nonoutsourcable” skills and
thus ensure their continued employment.

Third, and perhaps most interesting of all, is the insight that In Defense of Globalization gives on
India. Many of the cases or examples Bhagwati uses to make his points come from India, and several
major points he makes are supported by data from India. Superficially, one might take this focus as
a display of nationalistic pride. (The author was, after all, born and raised in India.) Upon closer
inspection, however, the reader realizes that India is a key example of how globalization can operate in a
developing nation. Bhagwati provides information about how globalization has both helped and hurt
India and thus provides excellent insights into one of the most important markets in the world.
In so doing, Bhagwati gives the reader a blueprint for how to do business with India. Moreover, by
using India as an example, he provides a roadmap of sorts for how other developing nations might be
affected by globalization. Such understanding can help individuals succeed within global organizations
and can help organizations succeed within the global marketplace. For these reasons, In Defense of
Globalization is an effective resource that should be read by employees and managers in a variety of
fields related to business and technology. While In Defense of Globalization provides effective
arguments, key perspectives, and important data, it also suffers from two important limitations. The first
is the style in which the book is written. The text is, first and foremost, an academic work in economics.
Much of the book is thus written in a thick style consisting of long sentences comprised of polysyllabic
terms. The author also tends to be redundant, and when this repetition is combined with an academic
style, it can make reading laborious. Such a style also makes it difficult to locate isolated facts or details
within the overall text. As a result, In Defense of Globalization is anything but a page turner. Rather,
it reads like a cross between a graduate text in economics and a political treatise. A second important
limitation is the author’s attemptto address all aspects of a topic. That is, when Bhagwati discusses one
topic, he often also alludes to how this topic relates to other subjects covered either in previous or future
chapters. As a result, each discussion contains several parenthetical expressions instructing the reader to
see different chapters for related information. These continual references to other chapters either have
the reader flipping back and forth to get a more complete perspective or leave those who do not flip about
feeling they have an incomplete understanding of the situation. Moreover, when interspersed in lengthy
academic sentences, such references further affect the readability of many passages. These limitations,
however, are not pronounced enough to detract from the quality of the book’s contents. Thus, while In
Defense of Globalization is a slow read, it is definitely worth the effort. Globalization is a complex topic
and an important force shaping today’s world. For these reasons, technical communicators should
improve their understanding of globalization in order to prepare for future career success. Jagdish
Bhagwati’s book In Defense of Globalization can serve as an important resource for developing such a
level of understanding. While the text is highly academic in style, the information and insights it contains
make it well worth the read.
Public debate over globalization and free trade often sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine, with
opposing sides using the same words but meaning something entirely different by them. At other times,
they speak different languages, with skeptics employing the imagery of barefoot children toiling in
sweatshops run by multinationals, while advocates of globalization marshal tables of data that show life is
really getting better for hundreds of millions of poor people in countries opening up to the global economy.
And the rest of the time it is a dialogue of the deaf, with neither side even listening to the other.
A large share of the blame lies with the defenders of globalization, for failing to make an emotionally
appealing case for the human liberty to engage in commerce across international borders. Economists
are notorious for dealing in abstractions, when the audience hungers for flesh-and-blood stories about
real people. Jagdish Bhagwati's ambitious new book, In Defense of Globalization, fills many of those
holes in the pro-globalization argument. Bhagwati, a Columbia University economics professor and author
of many books on trade, makes all the right economic arguments, but without the flurry of statistical
correlations often used to make the case. Instead, he tells the story of how globalization has delivered a
better standard of living in less developed countries, and how experiments with protectionist "import
substitution" policies have systematically failed.
Sprinkled throughout the book are literary and cultural allusions; you are as likely to encounter
Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, or T. S. Eliot as an empirical table or chart. That is not to say the
book is fuzzy in its thinking; a relentless economic logic suffuses its pages, but that logic expresses itself
through narrative arguments and examples rather than merely through numbers. On trade, Bhagwati is
more a New Democrat than a free-market purist. "As an economist normally accused of being 'the world's
foremost free trader,'" he writes, "I have always argued for freer trade, not as an objective but rather (in
the context of the poor nations such as India, from where I come) as an often powerful weapon in the
arsenal of policies that we can deploy to fight poverty."
His book takes the globalization argument into enemy territory. Bhagwati has done his homework on the
anti-globalization groups and what animates them: a discontented brew of anti-capitalism, anti-
corporatism, and anti-Americanism. He quotes liberally from the anti-globalization critics, confronting their
best arguments rather than knocking down straw men, and acknowledging up front the complexities and
ambiguities of the debate rather than painting everything in black and white.
Bhagwati meets the critics head on by examining globalization's impact on children, women, the poor,
democracy, labor rights, the environment, and culture. The case that globalization has benefited the poor
"has centered on a two-step argument: that trade enhances economic growth, and that growth reduces
poverty." He contrasts the failure of protectionism to deliver prosperity in post-colonial India and other
countries with the progress and development in East Asia and other more outward-oriented countries.
The growth spurred by globalization has not only expanded the pie but has done so in a way that is
"socially benign" and possesses "a human face."
On the emotional issue of child labor, Bhagwati establishes the necessary facts, then distills the
argument: "Poor parents, no less than rich parents, generally want the best for their children. Poverty is
what drives many to put their children to work rather than into school. Parents will choose to feed their
children instead of schooling them if forced to make a choice. When incomes improve, poor parents can
generally be expected to respond by putting children back in school." And this is indeed what has
happened in countries where opening to trade has raised incomes. For example, a recent study of rice
prices in Vietnam found that older girls are typically the first to go back to school when the family can
afford it.
And simply demanding that poor countries eliminate child labor can easily backfire. Bhagwati cites the
case of the Bangladeshi textile industry in 1993. That year, Congress seemed poised to pass Sen. Tom
Harkin's Child Labor Deterrence Act, which would have banned imports of textiles made by child workers.
Anticipating its passage, the Bangladeshi industry dismissed 50,000 children from factories. Most of those
children did not end up in school but instead fell into prostitution and other "occupations" far more
degrading than weaving cloth in a factory.
In two meaty chapters, Bhagwati chops the legs out of the argument — heard frequently in the
Democratic primary debates — that the U.S. must impose labor and environmental standards on poor
countries in any future trade agreements. He points to evidence establishing that U.S. multinationals do
not seek out less developed countries with low standards; they locate most of their affiliates in other high-
wage, high-standard countries, and when they do invest in poor countries, they invariably pay wages and
maintain standards far above those prevailing in the local economy. The result is not a "race to the
bottom," but a race to the top. An inescapable implication is that if the Democrats succeed in withholding
U.S. trade and investment from poor countries because they are poor, it will mean slower growth in those
countries: fewer girls studying in school, and more working in farms, factories, and brothels.
The only discordant notes in the book are on capital controls and go-slow reforms for countries in
transition. Bhagwati supports the free movement of goods, but not of capital — believing that short-term
capital flows can destabilize emerging economies. But here he makes the mistake of confusing cause
and effect. Short-term capital typically flees emerging economies because of a loss of confidence in the
stability of domestic markets. Capital controls can hold those investments captive for a while, but they
cannot substitute for real reforms. Bhagwati also takes aim at "the 'shock therapy' of excessively rapid
reforms that devastated Russia," as if its economy had not been a mess before those reforms. The root of
Russia's lingering economic problems is not too much capitalism, but half-hearted reforms implemented
clumsily by a corrupt bureaucracy run by too many ex-Communists. If overly aggressive market reforms
are to blame for Russia's problems, why are those former Soviet bloc countries that reformed even more
aggressively — such as Poland, Estonia, and the Czech Republic — doing so much better, and those
that have lagged behind even Russia's tepid reforms — such as Ukraine and Belarus — doing even
These quirks are easily forgiven in a book brimming with engaging arguments and good sense. In
Defense of Globalization will encourage the faithful who believe in economic freedom as a value worth
pursuing in and of itself, but also those more pragmatic souls who see it as a necessary if less-than-
lovable means to achieve poverty reduction and other worthy social goals. Of all the books defending
globalization, Jagdish Bhagwati's may offer the best chance to reach those readers not fatally blinded by
anti-market ideology.