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Dalpiaz, Miranda

FSEM-Politics of Human Rights

Professor Sun
November 7, 2007

Globalization from the Human Rights Perspective

“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off… it is the economic
equivalent of a force of nature--like wind or water.”1
Bill Clinton makes an important point about globalization; fighting globalization
would be like fighting the impossible. Instead the problems that globalization creates
must be addressed, and the benefits of globalization must be given to all.
The definitions of globalization differ greatly. Even though the term is commonly
used there doesn’t seem to be a widely agreed upon standard definition. For instance the
World Bank states that globalization is the growing integration of economies and
societies around the world.2 Where as The Bush Administration states that globalization
is the totality and velocity of connections and interactions--be they economic, political,
social, cultural--that are sometimes beyond the control or even knowledge of
governments and other authorities.3 The definition of globalization that will be used here
is that globalization is the integration of nation-states, markets and technologies through
increasing contact, communication and trade. Trade, communication and contact are
cheaper and faster than ever before. The consequence of globalization is the emergence
of a single global system, the process of change (the globalizing effect) binds people
together in common faith/political system. The powerful idea behind globalization today
is free-market capitalism. The more generous your country’s market and economic
regulations are the more efficient and flourishing your country’s economy will be. 4
The end of the Cold War wasn’t the start of globalization; it was the beginning of
a new period of globalization. International trade increased greatly during the period of
globalization from 1820 to 1914. From 1820 to 1914 international trade increased from
just 2 percent of the world income to 18 percent. During World War II and the Great
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000) 9.
Depression, the trade (in relation to income) was lower than it had been in 1914. Due to
increased multilateralism, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and
treaties like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), trade expanded among
industrialized countries after World War II.5 International capital (foreign ownership of
assets relative to world income) followed the same pattern as trade. It improved until
1914, but international capital didn’t return to the rates it had in 1914 until 1980. The
flow not only increased it changed the things it financed. Before 1914 international
capital was used for public projects such as railroads and investment in natural resources
such as mining. Now international capital is often used for direct investment in
manufacturing and services.6 The main differences between the pre-1914 globalizing
period and today’s globalizing period are “the degree and intensity in which the world is
being tied together today” and “the sheer number of people and countries able to
partake”.7 For example in 1900 the daily foreign exchange trading was measured in the
millions today it is measured in the trillions.8 Today’s period of globalization is on a
totally different scale then the period of globalization before 1914. Globalization today is
taking the world by storm.
Globalization can have a variety of effects on society; it can bring free markets
and democracy to impoverished countries or it can create ethnic tensions and less
security. Even though there are downsides to globalization, the benefits from
globalization far outweigh the detriments. Many of the benefits and detriments to
globalization concern human rights.
For most benefits of globalization there is always a “but”. Globalization is
increasing the quality of life for almost all of the population on earth. But what about
those people that aren’t benefiting from globalization. Globalization helps break the
boundaries of people possess on the basis of race, gender or religion. But is globalization
creating a cultural homogeneity. Globalization could be the solution to horrible regimes
that politically and economically suppress their people. But isn’t globalization helping to
David Dollar and Aart Kraay, Spreading the Wealth (America and the World: Debating
the New Shape of International Politics, New York, 2002) 186.
Ibid. 186-287.
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
Ibid. xviii.
put into power some of the most corrupt regimes. Globalization is the hope for the
world’s poor to attain the life of their dreams. But will there be enough resources for
everyone to attain their high standards of living.9 It is about finding a way to mediate
these “buts” while still allowing globalization to produce benefits.
Benefits from globalization can be seen nearly everywhere from the Indian
restaurant on the corner and the use of Internet sources to discover what exactly is
happening in Pakistan. Beyond the noticeable everyday examples of benefits of
globalization there are many other benefits. One of the benefits to globalization is
explained in the Golden Arches Theory.
The Golden Arches Theory states that no two countries with McDonald’s have
fought a war against each other since they have gotten their McDonald’s. It excludes
civil wars and violent border debates. Thomas Friedman author of The Lexus and the
Olive Tree and New York Times columnist devised the Golden Arches Theory. He came
upon “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” after extensive travel and
research. His idea is based on the observation that when a country reaches the economic
stage to possess a McDonald’s the nations larger middle class doesn’t want to be fighting
wars any more, they want to be making money, spending money and eating at
McDonald’s. A great example is the Middle East. What three Middle Eastern countries
don’t have McDonalds? Iraq, Iran and Syria. These three nations are engaged in combat
or are threatening combat with other countries.10 McDonald’s is a metaphor for “a larger
point about the impact of globalization on geopolitics.”11 From the human rights
perspective less war results in less chance of loss in political rights and a reduced chance
of atrocities being committed against mankind. Some of the worst human right atrocities
have been committed during war like for instance the Holocaust, the ethnic cleansing in
Bosnia and the raping of Nanjing in China.
Statistically globalization has done great things for the global population. It has
brought more poor people into the middle class faster than any time before and raised
living standards faster, higher and for more people than ever before. Poverty is on the
Geddes, Pete. “The Benefits from Globalization.” The Bozeman Chronicle 7 January
2004. 18 November 2007
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
Ibid. 252.
decrease. In fact poverty has fallen more in the past 50 years than the five hundred
previous to that.12 Around 200 million people have left absolute poverty (living on the
equivalent of $1 a day or less) over the past 20 years. Infant mortality rates have
decreased extremely. During the 1950s the infant mortality rate was around 178 deaths
per 1000 live births in developing countries by the late 1990s the infant mortality rate
was around 64 deaths per 1000 live births.13 Since 1960 along with infant mortality rates
decreasing malnutrition and illiteracy rates are down.14 Life expectancy and water
sanitation rates have increased. In 1960, child labor made up 32 percent of the labor force
in low-income countries by 2000 in the same countries it only made up on 19 percent of
the labor force. As a countries income increases due to globalization child labor
decreases.15 While countries become more globalized their treatment of the environment
increases. The statistical benefits to globalization are many and varied by looking at the
numbers it is noticeable that the benefits are happening.
Globalization is not a zero sum game where the gains of some countries are at the
result of the other countries. It is gradually bringing up all the of the world’s population
and countries even if they aren’t engaging directly in globalization. Recent World Bank
studies show that globalization’s ”trickle down” effect is producing benefits for the poor
along with the rich.16 In response to the argument that globalization is creating a greater
inequality between the rich and the poor, globalization supporters respond that the gap is
because the winners in today’s globalized society are really taking off and as the rich are
getting richer the poor are raising their standards of living, too.
Thomas Friedman’s quote in his book Lexus and the Olive Tree sums up the idea
held by many in the world “Whatever you’ve got, no matter how big or small—sell it,
trade it, barter it, leverage it, rent it but do something with it to turn a profit, improve your
standard of living and get in to the game.”17 For people to receive the benefits of
Ibid. 350.
Geddes, Pete. “The Benefits from Globalization.” The Bozeman Chronicle 7 January
2004. 18 November 2007
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
Geddes, Pete. “The Benefits from Globalization.” The Bozeman Chronicle 7 January
2004. 18 November 2007
Chua, Amy. World on Fire (Anchor Book, New York, 2004) 12.
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
globalization they need to build on whatever they have and get into the game. There are
lots of people willing to take part in globalization. They will go to extreme measures to
take part in globalization and will stay in the game for as long as necessary.
China is an example of a country that has received many of the benefits from
globalization. To take advantage of the benefits offered by globalization China adopted
reforms and trade agreements that were friendly to markets. China signed trade
agreements with the United States and the European Union. These trade agreements
negotiated lower tariffs, encouraged the steady expansion of economic cooperation and
promoted and increased trade between participating countries.18 The Gross Domestic
Product or GDP (measure of the value of goods and services produced in a year19) for
China has increased ten times since 1978.20 China used its large workforce and new
reforms to attract foreign investments. Measured on purchasing power parity, China had
the second largest economy next to the United States. The Chinese Yuan is continuing to
get stronger against the United States dollar. As China’s economy continues to grow
daily, many of the people in China are receiving benefits like more access to media and
the rest of the world through the Internet, increased political freedom and the economic
freedom to move up the economic ladder and join the labor market.
Detriments to globalization can be seen nearly everywhere from the ethnic
conflicts taking place in many countries because of globalization to the increasing
amount of wealth being concentrated into the hands of a tiny percentage of the
population. Beyond the examples of damage seen today there are examples of damage
that can be predicted. One example is the effects a higher standard of living will have on
the environment.
The environment is connected to human rights because a harmed environment
results in the loss of many basic human rights like the right to clean water, clean air and
food supply. Globalization affects the environment in some of the same ways any other
economic development has affected the environment. It has exploited natural resources
and produced harmful CO2 gases into the atmosphere. Many people are concerned with

what will happen when more people start living the Western lifestyle or continue to
increase their standard of living? The earth definitely doesn’t have enough natural
resources for billions of people to live the Western lifestyle. Unless there is a change in
the current Western lifestyle that is heavy on petrochemicals, the world will use up all of
its natural resources before many people even have a chance of owning a car. 21
“And because globalization as a culturally homogenizing and environment-
devouring force is coming on so fast, there is a real danger that in just a few decades it
could wipe out the ecological and cultural diversity that took millions of years for human
and biological evolution to produce.”22 Globalization is producing one group of values.
Whether it is one political system or one system of cultural values. It is a constant tug of
war between the “traditional societies” where the group is more important then the
individual. Globalization puts a huge emphasis on the individual. This value is far
different then the common value practiced in many cultures such as the family orientated
culture practiced in the Middle East.
Globalization has played an important role in the expansion of inequality by
creating a winner-take-all system for the entire globe. “According to the National
Journal, the incomes of the poorest fifth of working families in America dropped by 21
percent between 1979 and 1995, adjusted for inflation while the incomes of the richest
fifth jumped by 30 percent during the same period.”23 Highly skilled workers are moving
to industrialized countries through immigration programs that favor skilled workers
creating a brain drain from developing countries.24
Another detriment to globalization is the concentration of wealth within the
minority. Free markets concentrate wealth into the hands of the minority while
democracies gives political power to the majority. This produces ethnic conflicts or
ethnonationalism, “pitting a frustrated “indigenous” majority, easily aroused by
opportunistic vote-seeking politicians, against a resented wealthy ethnic minority”.25

Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
Ibid. 278.
Ibid. 309.
David Dollar and Aart Kraay, Spreading the Wealth (America and the World: Debating
the New Shape of International Politics, New York, 2002) 197.
Chua, Amy. World on Fire (Anchor Book, New York, 2004) 6-7.
Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Venezuela are just a few countries where this conflict is
happening now. Another reason for hatred against market-dominant minorities is that
they usually control the crown jewels of the country for example the oil in Russia and
Venezuela is owned and controlled by a market dominant minority. Today the United
States is seen as the world’s market dominant minority. The United States has economic
power that is disproportion to its size and population. As a result around the world the
United States and its citizens are continually the targets of violence, hatred and
resentment.26 Market-dominant minorities usually produce a backlash that takes one of
these forms; backlash against markets specifically the wealth held by the market-
dominant minorities, backlash against democracy and backlash against the elite using
Crony capitalism is a democratic government and free market system that gives
special privileges to people friendly with the government. This produces vast inequality
and resentment towards the group of people being favored. Sierra Leone is an example of
a country with crony capitalism. The government has given all the rights to diamond
resources to foreigners specifically Lebanese in exchange for money to stay in power and
a cut of the profits. This crony capitalism is one of the main reasons for the continued
civil war and lack of a stable environment in Sierra Leone.28 Kleptocracy is another name
for crony capitalism .
Russia is an example of a country that possesses both crony capitalism and a
market-dominant minority. Russia went through mass privatization in the 1990s with the
fall of the Soviet Union. The pro-market reforms didn’t achieve their goal of dispersing
ownership and creating functioning markets, the reforms actually allowed for a small
group of people to plunder Russia of all its resources and wealth. The businessmen were
incredibly savvy; they bought shares in the newly privatized market from average people
that had no idea how to succeed in a capitalist economy, they dabbled in semi-private
enterprises before the glasnost and played the game more effectively and ruthlessly then
anybody else. The government gave the businessmen special privileges like government
contracts, but in return the businessmen gave the government loans and capital it needed
Ibid. 7.
Ibid. 11.
Ibid. 148.
to survive the transition from communism to capitalism. The businessmen were mainly of
the Jewish faith causing a backlash against the Jewish community. For example political
campaigns against Jewish people were formed and anti-Semitism is on the rise in
Russia.29 Due mainly to Russia’s chaotic transition to free markets and a desperate
government a minority was able to take over many of the natural resources and wealth
that Russia had to offer after the fall of the Soviet Union.
As Paul Krugman the economist pointed out, “The raw fact is that every
successful example of economic development this past century has taken place via
globalization; that is, by producing for the world market rather than trying for the self-
sufficiency. Many of the workers who do that production for the global markets are badly
paid by First World standards. But to claim that they have been impoverished by
globalization…you have to forgot that those workers were even poorer before the new
exporting job became available and ignore the fact that those who do not have access to
global markets are far worse off than those that do.”30 So even though there are many
detriments to globalization the massive results that globalization can produce mean that
globalization is the solution to the 1.3 billion people still living on one dollar a day.31
There are many things that can be done to alleviate the damages of globalization.
For instance countries should develop strong cultural and environmental filters to
decrease the chances of losing their own cultural identity and environmental resources
while still being able to take part in globalization.32 People need to demonstrate to
corporations and shareholders that their profits will increase not decrease with
environmentally sound production methods.33 Governments need to create safety nets to
help their citizens that fail to make it in globalization and to help citizens get into the
game. The countries that are falling behind in globalization don’t have the minimum
political, economic and legal infrastructure to take advantage of the benefits from
globalization.34 It is to the advantage of the whole world community for the United

Chua, Amy. World on Fire (Anchor Book, New York, 2004) 78-94.
Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Anchor Books, New York, 2000)
Ibid. 355.
Ibid. 279.
Ibid. 286.
Ibid, 356.
Nations and other world organizations to step in and help these countries like Kenya and
Zambia establish systems of government that promote globalization. The world
especially the developed countries need to continue to make progress technologically
because it is almost necessary to develop technology to ensure sustainable development.
Procedures and rules must be enforced to preserve the most pristine areas that still
In closing the detriments to globalization can best be mediated by using
globalization against itself and modeling the system to include everyone. The awareness
of human rights abuses around the world is greater due to globalization, but more human
rights mistreatments are be committed because of globalization. The key is finding a
balance between the good and bad and doing as much as possible to alleviate the human
rights abuses.