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