[saymaListserv] Re: [afmdiscussion] Fwd: TQE#121

Julia Ewen jewen at bellsouth.net
Thu Aug 25 19:47:25 JEST 2005


This is a great article, but I still have some questions:

> >  Nevertheless, there have been abuses of globalization. The situation is
> >  quite similar to the first burst of industrialization...We can expect
similar developments with
> >  globalization, though the evidence so far suggests to me that the
negative
> >  consequences will be (a) mild compared to what happened during the
early
> >  centuries of the industrial revolution, and (b) insignificant in
comparison
> >  to the worldwide decrease in poverty.

I'm sure the author doesn't mean to imply that abuses are okay because the
ultimate end
may turn out well in a generation or two (or does he?). That abuses were
tolerated and even
encouraged  by the political system during the Industrial Revolution does
not IMHO justify
political and social policies of toleration now. How can we identify and
rectify the abuses
now?

> >  Contrary to what you may read in anti-globalization leaflets and press
> >  releases, between 1980 and 2000 75% of the world's population achieved
an
> >  enormous increase in both average incomes and living standards due to
the
> >  effects of globalization. Summarized from Wolf's book in the chapter
"Why
> >  The Critics Are Wrong", p. 143, "never before have so many people, or
so
> >  large a proportion of the world's population, enjoyed such large rises
in
> >  their standard of living - India produced an approximately 100%
increase in
> >  real GDP per head and China nearly a 400% increase in real GDP per
head.
> >  This is an enormous improvement, experienced by some two billion
people.
> >
> >  Meanwhile, GDP per head in high income countries (with only 15% of the
> >  world's population) rose by 2.1% between 1975 and 2000, and by only
1.7% per
> >  year between 1990 and 2001.

So growth has been at a virtual standstill in the high income countries. Is
the inference here
that the economic "pie" is not expandable--that any gains by poor countries
must be paid for
by stagnation or decline in "rich" countries"? This is not a good scenario.
Stagnation leads to
decline and decline leads to "death" of any organism or system. If one part
of the system stagnates, declines and dies, it will ultimately take the rest
of the system down also. It is not in the long term interest of the "poor"
countries that the rich countries should stagnate, because it will
utlimately affect the poor countries negatively.

> >  A much shorter piece appeared in the Nov/Dec 2004 issue of Foreign
Affairs
> >  which helps, along with the data cited above, to explain some of the
intense
> >  reactions against globalization by the middle class around the world
> >  (including many Quakers). The article is "Globalization's Missing
Middle" by
> >  Geoffrey Garrett. He, too, describes the net positive effect of
> >  globalization on the poor of the world and admits that the rich also
> >  benefit, but his primary focus is the fact that "middle income
countries
> >  have not done nearly as well under globalized markets as either richer
or
> >  poorer countries..."

It is always middle income folks who face loss in the process of change.
People who already have nothing
can't get worse off, and so have a high chance of benefitting from change.
Rich people have enough capital to cushion the disruptive effects of change,
and so are in a better position to take the gamble that change will
ultimatey benefit them.

It is the middle income folks who have the dilemma of risking what they have
and tumbling back to the bottom. That is why the middle class has generally
been a conservative force in politics. It is why countries like the US and
the UK have been relatively stable over the long run, and why countries in
Latin America have not.

The existence of a huge, majority, middle class has provided the stable
political climate in which corporations have now gotten into a position to
globalize from a stable economic home base. Sadly the corporations now out
of greed are sabotaging that very base. And the middle class is being
depicted here as lazy and undeserving of enjoying the rewards that their
fathers/mothers and grandfathers/grandmothers worked and struggled for. This
is not true.

There are plenty of middle class displaced workers who will tell you that
the 'retraining"
was for service jobs that paid half or less of the indistrial wages they had
been earning and that most of the time the training had to be paid for by
the displaced worker out of unemployment benefits--which have been steadily
cut back by this administration. How do you take advantage of retraining
when your unemployment benefits don't even cover your family's basic housing
and food expenses? How do you take time away from job-hunting if you do
manage to find the cash? Or how do you give up the low paying job that is
paying the difference between your lost wages and the unemployment check?
And when the check runs out, where are you getting the cash for retraining?
And where do you get the money to
"tech up" your children so they won't have the same fate waiting for them?

The Middle Class has been exhorted by Washington and Corporate America that
it is their patriotic duty to feed the economy by not only spending what
they earn but what they have not yet earned. And having done their patriotic
duty, they are now being vilified for their "self-indulgence", "abuse of
credit" and "excessive consumption of world resources"!  What is the
Establishment's answer to Middle Class distress? The importation of cheap
foreign goods, reintinsified advertising and extension of even more credit
to people who already are in trouble financially.

"We won't pay you a living wage if we give you
the 'charity' of not taking your job offshore, and you should show your
appreciation by going into great mountains of debt buying all the stuff that
we are producing overseas. We will tell you that you will protect your job
by doing this, but your demand for all these cheap goods will in fact take
your job overseas to somebody who will do it cheaper. We'll fire now you if
you don't take less money and we'll fire you later on
if you do. And guess what? The economists say this is GOOD for you! So
kwicherwhinin' !"

The wonder isn't that the labor movement is making anti-globalism noises.
The wonder is that it is not up in arms and throwing strikes every week! The
laboring class has become middle class. That is what has everybody confused.
Middle Class folks aren't supposed to have to strike for their rights. They
are supposed to HAVE their rights...but that doesn't really apply any more,
does it?

> >  Friends are required to search continuously for ways of understanding
the
> >  realities of the world which put them on the side of the poor and the
> >  oppressed. Some middle class labor movement representatives have
succeeded
> >  in convincing Friends that the workers in the US and European labor
> >  movements are the poor and oppressed and that we Friends should take
sides
> >  with them against those who are truly poor in other countries.

Going way back to mid 16th century and early 17th century English and
American Friends, our origins were not in the homeless or working poor but
in what sociologists call the "middling" class. These were
folks who did not necessarily own land or other property in signficant
amounts, but owned "some", and
were not highly educated but had a viable trade. They had enough that they
had a little ways to fall to be considered poor. Most Quakers were not from
the class that had enough wealth to be insulated from the effects of change.
The reforms in which they became engaged were at first born of their own
experience--prison reform arose from their own incarcerations for example.
Slavery reform was driven by Friends who experienced the cheap labor of
slaves as unfair competition, since they did not own large tracts of land
requiring slave labor (due to Quaker custom of  passing on property in equal
portions to all their children instead of handing it intact to the eldest
son)... Our heritage as a Society is linked more to the interests of the
Middle Class than it is to either the rich or the poor. OUGHT we to be
concerned for the poor? Of course. Historically have we been, at the cost of
our own interests? I think not.

Are we in fact in favor of world without a Middle Class? Are we willing to
selfdestruct on principle? How would such a world look? Shall we all become
poor? or will we find ourselves buying the Robertson Gospel of the Church of
the Prosperous Elect? We set out to good and historically have ended up
doing "very well indeed"...

> >  Companies that outsource generally pay significantly better wages,
provide
> >  better benefits and combat sexual, class and cultural / tribal / caste
> >  discrimination more effectively than local employers in the countries
where
> >  they send their work. These are effects that Friends want to support.

That certainly seemed to be the case in the 70's when I lived in Upper Volta
(now Burkino Fasso).
I'm not against improving the standard of living in poor countries. I just
don't think that it needs to be
a the price of the destruction of the American Middle Class.

>> >  Rather than "dumbing down" and trying to retain repetitive
manufacturing and
> >  service jobs, they need to "tech up" their educational and training
programs
> >  to acquire and keep the newer jobs being developed. Summarizing from
> >  Geoffrey Garrett's article in Foreign Affairs (cited above), organizing
in
> >  middle income countries should focus on deep reforms in infrastructure
and
> >  institutions such as "government, banking and law to transform
economies
> >  that stifle innovation into ones that foster it with strong
property-rights
> >  regimes, effective financial systems and good governance."

Okay. So the state and federal governments in response have cut down on
scholarship and loan money
and raised the price of technical and scientific college educations at state
universities until it costs as much to go to college as it does to buy  a
luxury car, or even the equivalent of a mortgage payment, and the students
are supposed to then work for the same wages as a somebody in Bangalore,
where the cost of education, housing, food and transportation are also a
heck of a lot less than they are here? But of course if they "dumb down" and
go after the low paid service jobs, they find they are "overqualified" and
are passed over in favor of recent immigrants from South America who have
not "teched" up, and instead of fueling the consumer machine here, they are
sending their wages home to help people "tech up" to take on the tech jobs
that the college student trained for, and can't find now....

Ask a Georgia college senior about the difference in cost between his/her
freshman year at U of GA and what it costs now, and how much of it gets
covered by grants and loans now...You might have to hunt around in South
Georgia to find him/her, because he/she just didn't go back this year.
He/she is working at a low wage job to try and raise tuition money...if they
are lucky...

> >  We, as Friends, cannot have it both ways. We have constantly demanded a
> >  higher income and a better standard of living for the poor for many,
many
> >  years. Well, now we have both in developing countries that have
globalized.
> >  To help our own we have to get tougher both on government and labor and
> >  insist that our educational system, especially our resources for
college
> >  preparation, our community colleges and technical schools, be
dramatically
> >  upgraded so that the middle and working class young people in the US
can
> >  compete on "a level playing field" with the middle and working class
workers
> >  in countries such as China and India. We need to upgrade our
preparatory
> >  programs and then see to it that those prepared for the new job market
can
> >  actually get into the graduate programs that they may then wish to
enter.

That's great...of course when the Middle Class is gone, who is going to pay
for all these programs??
The poor don't have to pay. They have no income beyond survival level. The
rich increasingly are not paying. They are just collecting the profits being
siphoned out of the working class. The working class
is being asked to pay the costs of its own displacement with less and less
cash. Those who benefit
the most (the rich)  should be asked to pay the most tax...but it is the
Middle Class that pays and pays and pays.

> >  The question has been asked, "to increase the incomes of the poor in
the
> >  rest of the world, are we willing to have less and buy less?"

The incomes of the poor depend upon the Middle Class buying more and more
and more. If demand for cheap goods declines, then so do the fortunes of the
countries that are enjoying the benefits of exported jobs. By destroying the
Middle Class, the corporations will be destroying the engine that is
actually driving
the system.

What will take its place? Will it be something like China's amalgamation of
capitalism and communism where the government is the chief stockholder? Will
it be something like the South American system where an oligarchy faces off
against the poor? Or will we just settle for a government that can make
the trains run on time, and everybody is pretty much on his own? Any way you
slice it, I don't see the lion lying down with the lamb, except to consume
him as loin chops...There must be a better way through this mess...

Julia








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