A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to revive employment in the so-called ‘rust-bucket’ industrial states, and his infrastructure rebuilding program may be the way to go. Where the money is to come from I have no idea. But then the USA has been broke for a long time, and there is no other real alternative for the global currency than the USD.
One of my favourite bloggers is an economist called ‘Lorenzo’, who publishes some of his essays on the SkepticLawyer website I have referred to before (for example, here). And he has recently had a most useful go at the shifting terms that surround the topic of globalisation. Over to him.
Three different phenomena have to be distinguished:
globalisation: the increasing range of cross-border transactions of all varieties, including (in some ways especially) the flow of information. Globalisation is driven by falling transport and communication costs.
internationalisation: increasing use of international organisations to make or adjudicate policy decisions. The EU is internationalisation par excellence, but there are many manifestations of it, including the WTO and the International Criminal Court.
globalism: advocacy of rising international flows of goods, services and finance, of internationalisation and high levels of migration. Globalism is a set of policy positions, amounting to something close to articles of faith: particularly supporting migration.
There is nothing about globalisation per se that requires internationalisation or globalism. One can be quite hostile to internationalisation and high levels of migration without, for example, being hostile to international trade. (This the position of quite a strong majority of Britons, according to polling, for example, though controlling immigration apparently trumps trade.) An obvious objection to internationalisation is that it undermines democratic accountability–people may elect those who appoint those who run the relevant organisations, but their decisions are only (at best) very weakly subject to democratic oversight. (And doing an end-run around domestic interest groups can be the point of such arrangements.)
This then also becomes an objection to globalism. The other clear point of contention with globalism is migration.
Much of the rest of his interesting essay is about the costs and benefit of migration, another theme of the Presidential election, and I’ll refer to it later. My own view, for a long time now, is that the nation-state is the most useful device human beings have found yet with which to provide a good life (or, if you like, a better life) for millions of people. It provides a system for accountability, too. Until that form is adopted by the great majority of populations, I think the ‘internationalisation’ of power is not a policy for a nation-state to follow, since it does not provide for accountability. Many of the Brexit voters felt that they had lost control over their own nation, because far too many decisions were made in Brussels. Americans inhabit a large country with a wide variety of landscapes and opportunities, and they are less travelled internationally, on average, than Australians. They don’t think they need the UN, though President Roosevelt believed in it completely.
Given the outcome of the Second World War, Australia could not have done other than support the United Nations and its off-shoots. Indeed, Chifley’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr H. V. Evatt, was one of the strong leaders in the formation of the UN, and was elected to the presidency of the United National General Assembly for one year. Sixty years later, I do not think we can leave the UN, but I do think that we do not have to follow every idea that comes out of its deliberations. Too much of what happens there is what economists call ‘rent-seeking’ — countries or international NGOs seizing on any idea that comes up that might push money from elsewhere towards them. A classic case is the whole global warming charade, where the notion is that rich nations caused whatever people think the crisis is, and should therefore pay the poor nations as a kind of reparation.
I have written before (even before the establishment of this website) that Australia should have gone down the ‘armed neutrality’ path that Sweden chose after 1945, declining to join NATO, making its own planes and weapons, and making clear, also, that attacks on it would be resisted decisively. Switzerland and Finland did the same, for different reasons. If it is claimed that they just get a free ride from NATO, I would advance the thought that Australia as an armed neutral would have gained a free ride from the USA in the same way, and without our having been tied to American foreign policy, which is directed (quite properly) at supporting the USA’s own interests. Australia would always be important for the USA, given the importance of the Pacific and Australia’s place in it. In short, I am not a great supporter of the UN, and think that much of what it does is beneficial neither to the the people of the poor nations nor to those in the rich nations, who pay for the UN. Nor do I think we need to be an all-the-way-with-USA country, either.
Back to Lorenzo and migration
The standard line among “serious” folk is that migration is good for one’s economy. Well, it can be, but it need not be. The migration of Palestinians into Lebanon was, for example, very bad for the Lebanese economy because it destabilised Lebanese politics leading directly to the Lebanese Civil War…. the Nordic model of high levels of social provision and high levels of economic freedom relies quite crucially on strong connections and easy communication between officials and public based on shared expectations and values to permit relatively high efficiency in provisions of social services. The more diverse the spread of expectation and values are among the population, the more difficult such a high tax-spend social equilibrium becomes. Muslim migration to Sweden and other Nordic countries must tend to, over time, make that social equilibrium less stable–particularly as such a narrow range of migrants are being imported, making it much less likely that Nordic norms will be adopted by the newcomers and much more likely that Islamic norms will operate as a counter-identity.
Treating immigration as an unalloyed good, and migrants as an undifferentiated mass, is propagandistic nonsense. That does not stop folk being outraged when the costs of migration are raised, or when folk suggest that there might be reasons to differentiate between sources of migrants. For example, there is no benefit from Muslim migrants that are not available from other migrants. There are costs from Muslim migrants which are either specific to, or particularly intense among, Muslims. Of course lots of folk are sceptical about Muslim migration.
This is not opposition to globalisation. It is not even opposition to migration–a poll that found almost half of Australians thought Muslim migration had been bad for Australia also found that almost 70% were comfortable with more migration. Dismissing the hostility to Muslim migration as xenophobia, racism, anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation simply epitomises the way language taboos are used to discount popular concerns and (worse) do so by degrading the moral status of fellow citizens. The contrast with the po-faced pieties whereby Islamic jihadism is framed until it is not even Islamic screams the contempt for fellow citizens, and the moral mascot/sacred victim elevation of newcomers, involved in so much globalist self-congratulation.
Which is just the sort of smug hostility to citizen concerns that fuels opposition to globalism. Globalists have an interest in framing opposition to their preferred policies, and the ways in which they are pushed, as opposition to globalisation, because it redirects away from critical scrutiny of themselves and their preferred policy outcomes.
There is a lot more of interest in Lorenzo’s essay, which I recommend to those who like reading about difficult stuff — not that his writing is difficult. On the contrary. And I agree with his conclusion.
There is a great deal of not-noticing arrogance in globalism, and a significant strain of hostility to democratic accountability. The self-serving appeal for globalists in parading popular hostility that their failings (and smug arrogances) generate as “hostility to globalisation” is obvious. It is not, however, a parading which should be accepted. The actual story is rather more complicated and, until folk notice those complications, more popular revolts can be expected.