“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought” (Rawls, 1999, 3). Rawls further writes that “laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust” (3). Thus, the World Trade Organization protests globalization on behalf of poor nations. As an effect of globalization, developing nations – just because they are doing business with rich countries – are asked to accept the standards of environmental and labor protection that only the rich nations are able to afford at this point in time.
Seeing that one of the accompaniments to globalization is acceleration, the World Trade Organization wants to emphasize that developing nations must be given more time to adjust to change (Kaplan & Calzonetti, 2005). The debate over agricultural trade is by and large the most important issue for the World Trade Organization to deal with. Pitting rich nations against the poor, just as the conflict theory of inequality predicts, this debate emphasizes that the world’s poorest nations have few exports to offer besides basic agricultural products.
Given that international trade is a necessity in today’s globalized world, developing nations must compete against the giant nations, such as the United States and Japan. Developed nations support their farmers with subsidies. If they do not support their own farmers, the latter would go out of business. This assistance – amounting to approximately three hundred billion dollars every year – increases the supply of basic agricultural products on the world market. As the price of agricultural produce is lowered, it is the poor nations that are hurt (Kaplan & Calzonetti).
Is this unfair to the poorest people of the world? According to Rawls, “in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled” (3). Hence, our world as a whole cannot be deemed just. Should Europeans be more charitable toward the poorest people of the world? What if they are threatened by the very idea of empowering the poorest people of the world because the latter would increase their crimes including acts of terror if they are economically strengthened?
After all, the majority of the poorest people of the world are illiterate. Friedman (2000) writes that Americanization and globalization go together, and the backlash against globalization comes from the have-nots that do not possess the resources of the United States, and could therefore turn out to be America’s enemies. He mentions terrorism in this context, and relates its causes to America’s success in the global economy. In other words, Americanization is a symbol of America’s power around the globe.
And, this calls for envy and resentment on the part of those who have not the markets and the military might of the United States (Friedman). So although Rawls and Marx would reflect on perfect equality in a system they would consider absolutely just, the fact remains that the rich world cannot be expected to shower its blessings upon all and sundry in the poorest countries of the world. Those that are hostile toward rich people today cannot be expected to turn friendly tomorrow – unless, of course, the wealthy ones have done all they can to educate the underprivileged.
But, education is a long term process. Even so-called civilized people may seem to lack manners and refinement. Why should the rich world expect hostile, underprivileged people to become amiable toward them in the matter of a few years or decades? Then again, globalization is the most popular trend in international economics. Increasing integration of world markets and exchanges of information and technology are definitely expected to help the least developed nations, thereby bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Thus, the thesis of Bhagwati’s (2004) book, In Defense of Globalization – that, in fact, globalization helps the poorest people of the world – must be agreed with. After all, foreign direct investments are an extraordinary boost for the economies of the developing world. Moreover, by importing and exporting more goods and services than before, a developing nation may very well increase its income and also improve the standards of living of its peoples. Even so, it is impossible to imagine perfect equality between rich and poor nations today.
Blij (2009) argues in his book, The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape that the place where an individual is born continues to shape his or her life regardless of the dynamics of globalization. The author divides up the world into two parts: the core and the periphery. Nations at the core are globalized, industrialized and prosperous. For people in these nations, the world is flat, using Friedman’s terminology. In other words, people from core nations have relatively equal opportunities as their economies accrue the greatest benefits from globalization.
The rest of the nations are underprivileged and poor. People who cannot migrate from nations identified as peripheral also cannot escape poor living standards including lack of modern healthcare access (Blij). If all underprivileged people move to core nations, or if all people have access to the same opportunities in life, how would rich corporations generate cheap labor for their manufacturing plants? Moreover, even the Bible does not talk of perfect equality. There are good and bad people in the scriptures.
The concept of equality may sound logical to fans of Marx. It is not viable in reality, and there is nothing immoral about a wealthy businessman hiring workers unless he abuses them in the workplace. With this analogy in mind, globalization cannot be considered as a magical formula for perfect income inequality around the world. In fact, a sudden transformation to render everybody equal in terms of income and social opportunities may wreak havoc in our world. References Bhagwati, J. N. (2004). In Defense of Globalization. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Blij, H. D. (2009). The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Friedman, T. (2000). The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. New York, NY: Anchor Books. Kaplan, E. , & Calzonetti, C. (2005, Dec 9). The WTO’s Troubled ‘Doha Negotiations. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved Dec 10, 2009, from http://www. cfr. org/publication/9385/wtos_troubled_doha_negotiations. html. Rawls, J. (1999). A Theory of Justice. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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