Thursday, 17 November 2016

Is globalisation a good thing?

Recent political events in two of the world’s most industrialised nations have called into question the current trend towards “globalisation”. Whether you think that globalisation is a good thing largely depends on which aspects you are taking into account. If you look at our increasing ability to buy foods and products from other parts of the world, the increasing ease of visiting other countries and learning about their cultures, you would probably think that globalisation is a good thing. But if you look at the jobs being lost in your country because production is cheaper elsewhere, goods being “dumped” and that a single culture seems to be taking over, you would probably think it is a bad thing.

Globalisation, meaning the increasing inter-dependence of different parts of the world, has been happening for many centuries, but has speeded up in recent times. It could be argued, now that we have better transport links, that globalisation should help the poorer countries. Factories can now be opened up there, and because their workforces will accept lower wages, they can make things more cheaply. This is surely better than the chronic under-employment in these countries – a low-paid job is better than no job at all. However, for the present, it does not actually seem to be balancing out the relative wealth of the poorer and the richer nations. This may partly be because the factories opening up in the poorer countries could well belong to multi-national companies, whose base is elsewhere, and the profit therefore often gets siphoned back to the rich countries. The arrival of the factories and shops of these experienced and well-financed companies may also force local businesses to close, thus proving a real double-edged sword. Further, the poorer countries may not be in a position to force the multi-national companies to act in an environmentally sound way. Workers may be very poorly treated, health and safety may be low priorities, and rapid, uncontrolled, industrialisation may lead to rampant pollution, as it has in China since it became the workshop of the world.

Businessmen and politicians devoted to the ideas of “competition” and “market forces” may be oblivious to the instant mass redundancy caused by closing factories in the home country, in favour of factories which are cheaper to run in another country. They may not feel that they owe anything to the people who have lost their jobs. Meanwhile, people from the poorer countries know that wages are much higher in the richer ones, and go to great lengths to try and reach the more well-off countries, sometimes dying in the process. Clearly, everything is out of balance.

Globalisation, viewed in a positive light, is helping us to understand other countries and, for example, to respond more quickly to natural disasters. Bahá’u’lláh, writing in the nineteenth century, proclaimed, “This earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”. But to create this better world, we need a world government, with world-wide laws to prevent the multi-national corporations treating people and countries badly. Likewise, there needs to be a universal tax system so that taxes can be paid by everyone at a fair rate. Businesses and their employees need to operate with honesty and trustworthiness, understanding that their own interests are best served by operating for the good of the whole world.

Bahá’ís would wish for many other changes in the economic system. There should be more place for co-operative enterprises; there should be genuine profit-sharing arrangements. The elimination of poverty and of extreme individual wealth should be universal goals. Power should be devolved to the local authorities, which should be allowed to guide the local economics of the area, and to ensure that people are given proper opportunities and incentives. Agriculture should be seen as the most important industry.

If we concentrate on all the bad things happening in the economic sphere at present, of course we will conclude that globalisation is a bad thing. If we concentrate on building up some form of world government, on bringing about world unity and economic justice on a global scale, we will conclude that globalisation is not just a good thing, it is the next stage for mankind.


In my April 2016 blog, “There is a better way”, I explained briefly the support system (known as the “storehouse”) which should operate in each town and village.

In February, 2016, I wrote about trustworthiness in the blog post “You might cheat people, but you cannot cheat nature”.