Globalization, comprehensive term for the emergence of a global society in which economic, political, environmental, and cultural events in one part of the world quickly come to have significance for people in other parts of the world. Globalization is the result of advances in communication, transportation, and information technologies. It describes the growing economic, political, technological, and cultural linkages that connect individuals, communities, businesses, and governments around the world. Globalization also involves the growth of multinational corporations (businesses that have operations or investments in many countries) and transnational corporations (businesses that see themselves functioning in a global marketplace). The international institutions that oversee world trade and finance play an increasingly important role in this era of globalization.
Although most people continue to live as citizens of a single nation, they are culturally, materially, and psychologically engaged with the lives of people in other countries as never before. Distant events often have an immediate and significant impact, blurring the boundaries of our personal worlds. Items common to our everyday lives—such as the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the cars we drive—are the products of globalization.
Globalization has both negative and positive aspects. Among the negative aspects are the rapid spread of diseases, illicit drugs, crime, terrorism, and uncontrolled migration. Among globalization’s benefits are a sharing of basic knowledge, technology, investments, resources, and ethical values.
The most dramatic evidence of globalization is the increase in trade and the movement of capital (stocks, bonds, currencies, and other investments). From 1950 to 2001 the volume of world exports rose by 20 times. By 2001 world trade amounted to a quarter of all the goods and services produced in the world. As for capital, in the early 1970s only $10 billion to $20 billion in national currencies were exchanged daily. By the early part of the 21st century more than $1.5 trillion worth of yen, euros, dollars, and other currencies were traded daily to support the expanded levels of trade and investment. Large volumes of currency trades were also made as investors speculated on whether the value of particular currencies might go up or down.
|II||REASONS FOR GLOBALIZATION|
Most experts attribute globalization to improvements in communication, transportation, and information technologies. For example, not only currencies, but also stocks, bonds, and other financial assets can be traded around the clock and around the world due to innovations in communication and information processing. A three-minute telephone call from New York City to London in 1930 cost more than $300 (in year 2000 prices), making instant communication very expensive. Today the cost is insignificant.
Advances in communication and information technologies have helped slash the cost of processing business orders by well over 90 percent. Using a computer to do banking on the Internet, for example, costs the banking industry pennies per transaction instead of dollars by traditional methods. Over the last third of the 20th century the real cost of computer processing power fell by 35 percent on average each year. Vast amounts of information can be processed, shared, and stored on a disk or a computer chip, and the cost is continually declining. People can be almost anywhere and remain in instant communication with their employers, customers, or families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or 24/7 as it has come to be known. When people in the United States call a helpline or make an airline reservation, they may be connected to someone in Mumbai (Bombay), India, who has been trained to speak English with an American accent. Other English speakers around the world prepare tax returns for U.S. companies, evaluate insurance claims, and attempt to collect overdue bills by telephone from thousands of kilometers and a number of time zones away.
Advances in communications instantly unite people around the globe. For example, communications satellites allow global television broadcasts to bring news of faraway events, such as wars and national disasters as well as sports and other forms of entertainment. The Internet, the cell phone, and the fax machine permit instantaneous communication. The World Wide Web and computers that store vast amounts of data allow instant access to information exceeding that of any library.
Improvements in transportation are also part of globalization. The world becomes smaller due to next-day delivery by jet airplane. Even slow, oceangoing vessels have streamlined transportation and lowered costs due to innovations such as containerized shipping.
Advances in transportation have allowed U.S. corporations to subcontract manufacturing to foreign factories. For example, in the early 2000s the Guadalajara, Mexico, factory of Flextronic International made pocket computers, Web-connected TVs, computer printers, and even high-tech blood-glucose monitors, for a variety of U.S. firms. Low transportation costs enabled Flextronic to ship these products around the world, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) made the Mexico location more attractive to Flextronic.
Advances in information technologies have also lowered business costs. The global corporation Cisco Systems, for example, is one of the world’s largest companies as measured by its stock market value. Yet Cisco owns only three factories to make the equipment used to help maintain the Internet. Cisco subcontracts the rest of its work to other companies around the world. Information platforms, such as the World Wide Web, enable Cisco’s subcontractors to bid for business on Cisco’s Web site where auctions take place and where suppliers and customers stay in constant contact.
The lowering of costs that has enabled U.S. companies to locate abroad has also made it easier for foreign producers to locate in the United States. Two-thirds of the automobiles sold in North America by Japan’s Toyota Motor Company are built in North America, many in Kentucky and in seven other states. Michelin, the French corporate giant, produces tires in South Carolina where the German car company BMW also manufactures cars for the North American market.
Not only do goods, money, and information move great distances quickly, but also more people are moving great distances as well. Migration, both legal and illegal, is a major feature of this era of globalization. Remittances (money sent home by workers to their home countries) have become an important source of income for many countries. In the case of El Salvador, for example, remittances are equal to 13 percent of the country’s total national income—a more significant source of income than foreign aid, investment, or tourism.
|III||THE INSTITUTIONS OF GLOBALIZATION|
Three key institutions helped shape the current era of globalization: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). All three institutions trace their origins to the end of World War II (1939-1945) when the United States and the United Kingdom decided to set up new institutions and rules for the global economy. At the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire in 1944, they and other countries created the IMF to help stabilize currency markets. They also established what was then called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to help finance the rebuilding of Europe after the war.
Following Europe’s postwar recovery the IBRD became known as the World Bank. Its mission was redirected to help developing countries grow faster and provide a higher living standard for their people. The World Bank made loans to developing countries for dams and other electrical-generating plants, harbor facilities, and other large projects. These projects were intended to lower costs for private businesses and to attract investors. Beginning in 1968 the World Bank focused on low-cost loans for health, education, and other basic needs of the world’s poor.
|B||International Monetary Fund|
The IMF makes loans so that countries can maintain the value of their currencies and repay foreign debt. Countries accumulate foreign debt when they buy more from the rest of the world than they sell abroad. They then need to borrow money to pay the difference, which is known as balancing their payments. After banks and other institutions will no longer lend them money, they turn to the IMF to help them balance their payments position with the rest of the world. The IMF initially focused on Europe, but by the 1970s it changed its focus to the less-developed economies. By the early 1980s a large number of developing countries were having trouble financing their foreign debts. In 1982 the IMF had to offer more loans to Mexico, which was then still a developing country, and other Latin American nations just so they could pay off their original debts.
The IMF and the World Bank usually impose certain conditions for loans and require what are called structural adjustment programs from borrowers. These programs amount to detailed instructions on what countries have to do to bring their economies under control. The programs are based on a strategy called neoliberalism, also known as the Washington Consensus because both the IMF and the World Bank are headquartered in Washington, D.C. The strategy is geared toward promoting free markets, including privatization (the selling off of government enterprises); deregulation (removing rules that restrict companies); and trade liberalization (opening local markets to foreign goods by removing barriers to exports and imports). Finally, the strategy also calls for shrinking the role of government, reducing taxes, and cutting back on publicly provided services.
|C||World Trade Organization|
Another key institution shaping globalization is the World Trade Organization (WTO), which traces its origins to a 1948 United Nations (UN) conference in Havana, Cuba. The conference called for the creation of an International Trade Organization to lower tariffs (taxes on imported goods) and to encourage trade. Although the administration of President Harry S. Truman was instrumental in negotiating this agreement, the U.S. Congress considered it a violation of American sovereignty and refused to ratify it. In its absence another agreement, known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), emerged as the forum for a series of negotiations on lowering tariffs. The last of these negotiating sessions, known as the Uruguay Round, established the WTO, which began operating in 1995. Since its creation, the WTO has increased the scope of trading agreements. Such agreements no longer involve only the trade of manufactured products. Today agreements involve services, investments, and the protection of intellectual property rights, such as patents and copyrights. The United States receives over half of its international income from patents and royalties for use of copyrighted material.
|IV||CRITICISMS DIRECTED AT THE IMF AND WTO|
Many economists believed that lifting trade barriers and increasing the free movement of capital across borders would narrow the sharp income differences between rich and poor countries. This has generally not happened. Poverty rates have decreased in the two most heavily populated countries in the world, India and China. However, excluding these two countries, poverty and inequality have increased in less-developed and so-called transitional (formerly Communist) countries. For low- and middle-income countries the rate of growth in the decades of globalization from 1980 to 2000 amounted to less than half what it was during the previous two decades from 1960 to 1980. Although this association of slow economic development and the global implementation of neoliberal economic policies is not necessarily strict evidence of cause and effect, it contributes to the dissatisfaction of those who had hoped globalization would deliver more growth. A slowdown in progress on indicators of social well-being, such as life expectancy, infant and child mortality, and literacy, also has lowered expectations about the benefits of globalization.
|A||IMF Terms and Conditions|
The IMF, in particular, has been criticized for the loan conditions it has imposed on developing countries. Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist at the World Bank, has attacked the IMF for policies that he says often make the fund’s clients worse, not better, off. So-called IMF riots have followed the imposition of conditions such as raising the fare on public transportation and ending subsidies for basic food items. Some countries have also objected to the privatization of electricity and water supplies because the private companies taking over these functions often charge higher prices even though they may provide better service than government monopolies. The IMF says there is no alternative to such harsh medicine.
The WTO has faced much criticism as well. This criticism is often directed at the rich countries in the WTO, which possess the greatest bargaining power. Critics say the rich countries have negotiated trade agreements at the expense of the poor countries.
The Final Act of the Uruguay Round that established the WTO proclaimed the principle of “special and different treatment.” Behind this principle was the idea that developing countries should be held to more lenient standards when it came to making difficult economic changes so that they could move to free trade more slowly and thereby minimize the costs involved. In practice, however, the developing countries have not enjoyed “special and different treatment.” In fact, in the areas of agriculture and the textile and clothing industries where the poorer countries often had a comparative advantage, the developing countries were subjected to higher rather than lower tariffs to protect domestic industries in the developed countries. For example, the 48 least-developed countries in the world faced tariffs on their agricultural exports that were on average 20 percent higher than those faced by the rest of the world on their agricultural exports to industrialized countries. This discrepancy increased to 30 percent higher on manufacturing exports from developing countries.
The agricultural subsidies granted by wealthy countries to their own farmers have earned the strongest and most sustained criticisms, especially from developing countries. Japan, for example, imposes a 490 percent tariff on foreign rice imports to protect its own rice farmers. The average cow in Switzerland earns the annual equivalent of more than $1,500 in subsidies each year as the Swiss government seeks to protect its dairy industry from foreign competition.
The United States enjoys some of the greatest advantages. Because of government payments, U.S. farmers can sell their products at 20 percent below their cost of production in overseas markets. United States corn exports represent more than 70 percent of the total world exports of corn. The United States ships half of the world’s total exports of soybeans and a quarter of all wheat exports. Farmers in the United States can sell these grains at half of what it costs to produce them. The resulting artificially low world prices hurt producers in poorer countries where there are no government subsidies.
For example, in 2002 the president of the United States authorized $4 billion in subsidies to America’s 25,000 cotton farmers. This action lowered world cotton prices by one-fourth. As a result West African countries lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the region’s 11 million cotton-producing households suffered increased poverty.
The European Union (EU) gives its farmers even higher subsidies. The EU is the world’s largest exporter of skimmed-milk powder, which it sells at about half the cost of production. The EU is the world’s largest exporter of refined sugar, which it sells at a quarter of the cost of producing it. Governments in the developed world pay more than $300 billion a year in farm subsidies, seven times what they give in development aid. Such subsidies have a devastating impact on farmers in poorer countries. Mexican farmers are priced out of local markets for corn by subsidized U.S. exports. Sugar growers in Swaziland and cotton producers in West Africa must compete with products that rich countries dump onto the world market at prices well below the cost of their production due to these subsidies.
Foreign aid from rich countries does little to offset the impact of these subsidized farm exports. Foreign-aid spending by wealthy nations amounts to only a tiny percentage of their incomes and total government spending. The United States gives just 0.15 percent of its gross domestic income (GNI), or about $35 a year per American, in foreign aid. Of this, about one-third goes to just three countries—Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan—which together receive more than twice as much aid from the United States as the poorest billion people in the world do. Europe gives 0.33 percent of its collective GNI and has promised to increase giving to 0.39 percent. Although the United States and Japan, the world’s two largest economies, give the most aid in absolute terms, they are at the bottom of the list of countries based on aid as a share of national income. The most generous are the smaller countries of Northern Europe, including Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden.
|D||Trade Disputes, Rules, and Agreements|
Given the importance of foreign trade, one of the most important international agencies is the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Board, which is empowered to settle trade disputes under WTO rules. Winners of such settlement decisions by the board are allowed to retaliate against countries found guilty of unfair trade practices. Smaller, developing countries, however, fear cross-retaliation if they confront larger, more powerful nations.
Critics of the WTO in developing countries charge that the rules do not help them and that they have been forced to bear the harsh adjustment costs to free trade while developed countries have not lived up to their liberalization commitments. According to these critics, the terms of trade have gone against the developing countries. The value of developing countries’ exports has declined relative to the value of their imports. Not only have the prices of such commodities as coffee, copper, sugar, and cotton fallen substantially for decades but also earnings from labor-intensive manufacturing, such as textiles and clothing, have declined as an ever greater number of developing countries compete for the limited amount they can export to the rich countries. At the same time the developing countries have faced increased prices on goods they import, ranging from computer software to airplanes to medicine.
A WTO meeting in November 2001 in Doha, the capital of Qatar, set in motion a multiyear negotiating process aimed at further liberalizing world trade but with a focus on the needs of the developing countries. However, disputes over agricultural subsidies, the definition of intellectual property rights, and whether poor countries were to be entitled to “special and different treatment” were not easy to resolve. The rich countries had the greater bargaining power, and their trade negotiators were under pressure not to make concessions that would hurt people back home.
In 2003 these issues came to a head as WTO talks in Cancún, Mexico, foundered. Representatives of a group of 21 developing countries withdrew from the talks after the EU and the United States failed to meet their demands for lowering agricultural subsidies. The same countries also resented EU and U.S. proposals that they accept new rules for foreign investment without first agreeing on the issue of subsidies. Some observers believed that the failure of the talks in Cancún made it unlikely that global trade rules could be negotiated by a self-imposed deadline of January 2005.
Critics of the WTO have also charged that the developed countries have obtained a set of trade agreements benefiting their large corporations. The Agreement on Basic Telecommunications, for example, opened world markets to large telecommunications companies based in the developed nations. These companies were previously excluded from these markets by government-owned monopolies. The Financial Services Agreement likewise opened opportunities for banks, insurance companies, and stockbrokers in the developed countries as they sought to expand into new markets.
Instead of increasing economic stability, financial liberalization caused financial crises in most of the world’s economies. An IMF study found that 133 of the fund’s 181 member countries suffered at least one significant banking crisis from 1980 to 1995. The World Bank identified more than 100 major bank collapses in 90 developing or formerly Communist nations from the late 1970s to 1994. Many economists believe that these crises were caused by the IMF-imposed financial liberalization on countries that either lacked regulatory agencies or the experience necessary to oversee the financial sector.
|V||THE DEBATE OVER GLOBALIZATION|
Very few people, groups, or governments oppose globalization in its entirety. Instead, critics of globalization believe aspects of the way globalization operates should be changed. The debate over globalization is about what the best rules are for governing the global economy so that its advantages can grow while its problems can be solved.
On one side of this debate are those who stress the benefits of removing barriers to international trade and investment, allowing capital to be allocated more efficiently and giving consumers greater freedom of choice. With free-market globalization, investment funds can move unimpeded from where they are plentiful (the rich countries) to where they are most needed (the developing countries). Consumers can benefit from cheaper products because reduced tariffs make goods produced at low cost from faraway places cheaper to buy. Producers of goods gain by selling to a wider market. More competition keeps sellers on their toes and allows ideas and new technology to spread and benefit others.
On the other side of the debate are critics who see neoliberal policies as producing greater poverty, inequality, social conflict, cultural destruction, and environmental damage. They say that the most developed nations—the United States, Germany, and Japan—succeeded not because of free trade but because of protectionism and subsidies. They argue that the more recently successful economies of South Korea, Taiwan, and China all had strong state-led development strategies that did not follow neoliberalism. These critics think that government encouragement of “infant industries”—that is, industries that are just beginning to develop—enables a country to become internationally competitive.
Furthermore, those who criticize the Washington Consensus suggest that the inflow and outflow of money from speculative investors must be limited to prevent bubbles. These bubbles are characterized by the rapid inflow of foreign funds that bid up domestic stock markets and property values. When the economy cannot sustain such expectations, the bubbles burst as investors panic and pull their money out of the country. These bubbles have happened repeatedly as liberalization has allowed speculation of this sort to get out of hand, such as in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand in 1997 and since then in Argentina, Russia, and Turkey. According to critics, a strong active government is needed to assure stability and economic development.
Protests by what is called the antiglobalization movement are seldom directed against globalization itself but rather against abuses that harm the rights of workers and the environment. The question raised by nongovernmental organizations and protesters at WTO and IMF gatherings is whether globalization will result in a rise of living standards or a race to the bottom as competition takes the form of lowering living standards and undermining environmental regulation. One of the key problems of the 21st century will be determining to what extent markets should be regulated to promote fair competition, honest dealings, and fair distribution of public goods on a global scale. See also Development Economics.
The debate over globalization focuses in particular on how it can be regulated to address growing income and wealth inequalities, labor rights, health and environmental problems, and issues regarding cultural diversity and national sovereignty.
By the late 1990s the 20 percent of the world’s people living in the highest-income countries had 86 percent of the world’s income; the bottom 20 percent had only 1 percent of the world’s income. An estimated 1.3 billion people, or about one-sixth of the world’s population, have incomes of less than a dollar a day. Inequality is growing worse, rather than better. More than 80 countries had lower per capita income (income per person) at the end of the 1990s than they had at the end of the 1980s. In 1960 the top 20 percent had 30 times the income of the poorest 20 percent. This grew to 32 times in 1970, 45 times in 1980, and 60 times in 1990. By the end of the 20th century the top 20 percent received 75 times the income of the bottom 20 percent. The income gap is even apparent in cyberspace. The top fifth in income make up 93 percent of the world’s Internet users and the poorest fifth only 0.2 percent.
These inequalities in living standards and participation in the global economy are a serious political problem in an era of globalization. Some countries have been unable to function at even a minimum standard of basic competence in the globalized economy. The only profitable economic activity in some of these countries is linked to criminal behavior, such as the trade in illegal drugs, smuggling, and extortion of various kinds. Governments that are helpless to stop such activity or to collect taxes to meet basic public service needs are characterized as failed states. Sometimes failed states can become havens for terrorists and foreign criminals who use them as bases for activities harmful to other governments and their people. These states may also provide safe haven for mercenary forces that conduct raids into neighboring countries. In parts of Africa, for example, where diamonds and other valuable resources attract criminal despots, mercenary armies have been engaged in mass killing to terrorize local populations into giving them what they want. The international arms trade and easy importation of weapons, which allows such behavior, is a serious problem.
To stimulate economic development many developing countries have established free-trade zones where investors are given special benefits, such as low or no taxes, and labor unions are discouraged or not allowed. These benefits have led to violations of human rights. For example, the Workers Rights Consortium, supported by many colleges and universities in the United States, has sent inspection teams to developing countries to investigate the conditions under which caps and sweatshirts are made for university sports teams. The consortium found violations of child labor laws, intimidation of workers seeking to have their grievances addressed, and sexual harassment. Because only 1 percent of the projected growth in the world’s labor force is expected to be in the high-income countries in coming decades, what happens to the world’s lower-income workers in the developing countries takes on added importance. It may well determine whether there will be an overall rise in living standards as productivity gains are widely shared or an overall decline if developing countries compete for jobs by holding down wages and allowing harsher working conditions to attract investment and job creation.
The UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) has tried to level the playing field by endorsing five widely accepted core labor standards. These are elaborated in the ILO’s 1998 Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The first promises freedom of association and states that workers should be able to join together and form organizations of their own choosing. The second is the right of workers’ organizations, including trade unions, to bargain collectively with employers and governments. Third is the elimination of all forms of coerced or compulsory labor. Fourth is the effective abolition of child labor. The ILO’s Minimum Age Convention sets a basic minimum age of 15, but if a country is less developed or if only light work is involved the minimum age can be lower. If hazardous work is involved, the minimum age is 18. The fifth provision is the elimination of discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, or national or social origin.
Because the ILO has no enforcement powers, it has proven difficult to achieve these goals. In some countries governments pledge to observe the ILO’s standards but then ignore them. Where child labor laws are enforced, government factory inspectors often simply demand that child workers be fired. Many observers believe that to successfully attack the evils of child labor, child workers should not merely be fired but should be placed in schools and families should be compensated for the loss of income that occurs when children are removed from factories.
Life-threatening diseases represent another facet of globalization. Improvements in transportation that helped usher in globalization also made it possible for infectious diseases to spread rapidly around the globe. In 2003, for example, a deadly form of pneumonia known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) originated in China and quickly posed a worldwide health threat as airline passengers infected with the virus spread the illness.
The best way to address these health issues often conflicts with the WTO’s stand on intellectual property rights, in particular the patent laws that protect medicines made by pharmaceutical companies. This issue is particularly prominent in relation to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Of the 20 million people who have died of AIDS most lived in poorer countries. In some developing countries the infection rate is above 30 or even 40 percent of the adult population. Today the worst affected countries are in Africa. The disease is also spreading rapidly in countries such as India, China, and Indonesia.
There are other killer diseases found mostly in poorer countries. Although tuberculosis (TB) affects a small percentage of the population in rich countries, more than one-third of the world’s population was infected with tuberculosis in 2000. There are 8 million new cases of TB and 2 million deaths a year from this disease, and these numbers are climbing. More than 1.5 million people die each year from malaria, another disease that mainly impacts developing countries. Diseases spread by unclean drinking water and tainted food kill nearly 2 million people a year, mostly infants and small children and mostly among the 1.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to clean water.
In the case of diseases that primarily affect poor people, little or no research is being done to provide new medicines because the people affected are too poor to buy them. A major struggle has emerged regarding AIDS treatment over whether patent laws will continue to require that people pay high prices for life-saving drugs or whether lower-cost generic medicines can be provided. This issue has been intensively discussed as part of the debate over the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). Western pharmaceutical companies that do the research and development wish to protect their investments and argue that without such protection less will be spent to develop new life-saving drugs. The developing countries argue that scientific breakthroughs should be shared as widely and as inexpensively as possible. They have resisted the extension of property rights.
At least since the discovery of the ozone hole above Antarctica in the early 1980s, there has been growing awareness that air pollutants can cross borders and affect everyone living on the planet. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of the world’s leading climate scientists, for example, predicts that by the year 2100 the temperature of the planet could rise by as much as 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius degrees (2.5 to 10.4 Fahrenheit degrees). This global warming is due to the burning of fossil fuels, which occurs mainly in the developed, industrialized world, and the destruction of rain forests, which occurs mainly in the developing world. Already Greenland’s ice sheet has thinned and Argentina’s South Patagonia ice fields have retreated substantially. Glaciers are melting, and weather patterns may already be changing.
If global warming continues, experts expect deserts to advance, particularly across West Africa, and sea level to rise, flooding coastal areas and submerging a number of Pacific Ocean island states. One-third of the world’s most populous countries would be flooded by even a small rise in sea level. While developed countries such as The Netherlands can cope, developing countries such as Bangladesh cannot afford to pay for the kind of dike system that currently protects The Netherlands. Because of such dire forecasts, 160 nations in 1997 agreed to the first-ever binding pact to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Known as the Kyōto Protocol, the pact represented a modest step in limiting and rolling back harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmentalists argue broadly in favor of sustainable development. By this they mean a pattern of living that favors the preservation of habitat, the conservation of nonrenewable resources, and the increased use of renewable energy sources so that Earth’s ecosystems are not harmed beyond repair. Environmentalists favor the principle that polluters should pay for the right to pollute. Concerning genetic engineering, most environmentalists argue for a precautionary principle that emphasizes careful study before new genetically engineered plants or animals are introduced into ecosystems. Genetically modified plants, according to this principle, should not be introduced unless it is clear that no damage will be done. Some politicians and agribusiness corporations believe such a conservative approach would slow growth unnecessarily, lower living standards, and result in greater costs for businesses and consumers. They favor rules based on proven danger and far quicker introduction of genetically engineered products and processes.
There is widespread disagreement over what, if any, regulation is appropriate in the realm of culture. Some people fear a loss of cultural diversity as U.S. media companies become dominant. Such companies tend to “bundle” their products so that a blockbuster movie is promoted by selling soundtracks, books, video games, and other products. These cultural wares are distributed worldwide, and along with reruns of U.S. television shows, tend to replace local alternatives. The question is whether responses by other nations, such as prohibitions against the English language and government subsidies of national cultural productions, are legitimate restraints of trade or represent an unfair trade practice.
In a world that seems to grow increasingly smaller many issues must be considered at a global level and not only at a local or national level. However, at what point does this threaten national sovereignty—that is, the ability of a country to be self-governing? Some environmentalists, for example, have argued that environmental laws in the United States can be undermined if the laws are found to violate NAFTA. In effect, they say, the United States has lost the right to make and enforce its own environmental policies.
|VII||GLOBALIZATION IN THE COMING DECADES|
Globalization raises other questions that will be central to the 21st century. What is the proper role for the IMF, WTO, and UN, and how should they be governed? What is the best way to finance development? How much autonomy should countries have when the economic, political, and environmental decisions they make can have global repercussions? To what extent should global institutions be able to constrain what countries can and cannot do in an increasingly globalized world? What is the right way to balance social and cultural values with the need for economic efficiency? As the 21st century progresses, more and more decisions regarding these and other issues will need to be debated.