[saymaListserv] Fwd: Globalization and the Poor: Do Quakers have a realistic view of world poverty?

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Mon Mar 28 10:24:19 JEST 2005


Dear Atlanta Meeting and SAYMA Friends,  The following is a recent 
draft of an article which has been submitted for publication.  Please 
let me know if you have any questions, suggestions or comments that 
might be incorporated into the final draft should it be accepted for 
publication.
			Best Regards,  Janet Minshall



GLOBALIZATION AND THE POOR: Do Quakers have a realistic view of world poverty?

Several months ago there was a request from our Yearly Meeting office 
(SAYMA) to comment on/provide an alternative interpretation for an 
article in the New York Times,11-24 04, by David Brooks, which cited 
the amazingly positive results of globalization on the poor of the 
world. It is important for Friends to understand this issue as it 
relates both to our Testimony on Truth and to our beliefs in Jesus' 
teachings to reach out and help the poor.

The realities of globalization are primarily positive from a Quaker 
perspective in that globalization is actually achieving a major 
economic goal in the world which Quakers have long sought, i.e. 
rapidly bringing the poor out of poverty in those countries which are 
in process of globalizing.  Globalization and its proponents are 
widely mistrusted and their achievements denied and denounced by many 
Friends. Some vocal representatives of the labor movement have spread 
the ideology that any production done outside the US or Western 
Europe which is provided at lower than US/European wages and benefits 
amounts to exploitation.  Similarly they say any places and 
conditions of employment which do not meet the standards of those in 
the US and Western Europe are sweatshops. Further, anyone who works 
in production in  countries outside of the US or Western Europe is 
said to be at considerable risk of being kidnapped and forcibly 
enslaved.  All of these conclusions are patently false. The clear 
implication is that we consumers in the US should feel very guilty 
about buying anything made in other countries by "foreigners" and we 
should demand in demonstrations and editorials that no one else in 
the world be permitted to do the work of US, European and 
multinational corporations but the highly paid middle-class workers 
who have done that work in the past.  Those of you who actually 
research the issue of globalization will find that such 
misrepresentations are egregiously self-serving on behalf of the US 
and Western European labor unions and grossly unfair to the workers 
and potential workers in the rest of the world.

Globalization is a process which has been occurring over many many 
decades.  Economic analyses indicate that the globalization which 
took place in the early part of the twentieth century was actually 
more rapid than what is occurring at present. Because the process is 
now old enough to examine thoroughly, there are many good articles 
and books available on the actual effects of globalization on the 
peoples of the world. While some are slanted to support particular 
political agendas (propaganda), many are written objectively by 
people from a wide variety of cultures and countries.

In addition to David Brooks' 11-27-04 piece in the New York Times, 
which skims over some of the very good news about the effects of 
globalization on the world's poor, there is the Martin Wolf book 
which Brooks refers to: Why Globalization Works published by Yale 
University Press, 2004.  Martin Wolf is The Associate Editor and 
Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times in London. 
Another good book from a slightly different perspective is
In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati, also published in 
2004.  Bhagwati is University Professor at Columbia University and 
Andre Meyer Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council 
on Foreign Relations.  He is also a former Special Advisor to the 
United Nations on Globalization.

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 Martin 
Wolf's book in the chapter "Why The Critics Are Wrong", pg. 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. 
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.

A much shorter piece appears in the November/December 2004 issue of
Foreign Affairs.  It raises an interesting point which helps, along 
with the data cited above, to explain some of the intense reactions 
against globalization by the middle class around the world (which 
would include most Quakers).  The article is "Globalization's Missing 
Middle" by Geoffrey Garrett.  He, too, describes the astoundingly 
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..."  He 
explains (as I explained in an article in Friendly Woman magazine, 
Winter 2001 Issue, Vol.14, #5) that the middle class workers in many 
countries like the US don't have the technical and scientific 
education necessary to compete for the higher wage jobs which have 
developed over the past twenty years or so. Thus the relatively 
poorly trained and educated group of workers in the US, and in some 
parts of Europe, is stuck trying to force governments and major 
employers to keep those higher wage jobs at home rather than have 
them outsourced to better educated and less expensive workers in 
China, India and elsewhere.

To his credit, John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, recognized the 
problem years ago and established union-funded programs to upgrade 
the education and skills of layed off workers in the US. But many of 
those who might benefit from such an upgrade think they are somehow 
entitled to their previous jobs for the rest of their working lives 
without any further training.

Friends frequently express concern for truth, simplicity, equality 
and peace, all venerable Quaker testimonies.  In keeping with those 
testimonies 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.

Our companies which outsource most usually 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 seem 
like effects which Friends would want to support.

As many of us have learned, it is the disaffected middle class which 
has the time and the resources to organize politically.  Rather than 
organizing against the poor of the world, middle class people and 
those in middle income countries  need to put their energy into 
innovation and change. 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 might focus on deep reforms in infrastructure as well as in 
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."

This sounds like a call for the middle class to put our own house in 
order here in the US:

First and most importantly, we need to better educate and train our 
workers. To accomplish necessary institutional change in the US, 
after exposing the hypocrisy of Bush's "No Child Left Behind" policy, 
we need to replace the Republican's misdirected and ineffective 
efforts with significant and substantial upgrades to our educational 
system.  Our workers need to be prepared for the jobs on the cutting 
edge of innovation and change rather than being dragged along behind 
the economy kicking and screaming.

The efforts of crusaders like New York's Attorney General, Elliott 
Spitzer, who is calling major corporations and industries to account 
by cleaning up both their boards and their books needs wider support 
and encouragement.

Examining the process for casting and counting ballots in this 
country is equally important and deserves our involvement.

Finally, the McCain-Feingold initiative to reform campaign financing 
doesn't go far enough.  We need to build a fire wall between our 
elected representatives and the corporate and other special interests 
who have apparently become their primary constituency.  All of these 
efforts are more important for the survival and well-being of workers 
and their jobs in the US than uselessly shaking our fists at the 
process of globalization and outsourcing.

							Janet Minshall






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