An email discussion with Stuart Buck (SB), a lawyer and conservative; Daniel Knauss (DK), an urban agrarian; and Caleb Stegall (CS), a country lawyer and upstart hobbit.
CS: In the discussion published in the previous issue of Comment, Jeremy Lott defines globalization as a process of expanding freedoms, and he supports his faith in this process with statistics reflecting decreasing poverty and increasing education in the Third World, longer life, and fewer wars. The arguments seeking to temper Lott’s enthusiasm for globalization seem rather impotent in the face of its apparent inevitability.
I think there is a more convincing rationale for tempering our acceptance of the globalization gospel, and I will try to advance it. Apologists like Lott make the rather straightforward argument that globalization is simply the growth of freedom, wealth, and knowledge. “What’s not to like?” as Lott puts it. This, however, begs the more important questions. Instead of asking whether we want more freedom or wealth or knowledge, we ought to ask what kind of freedom (or what kind of wealth or what kind of knowledge) we ought to seek and whether the freedom advanced by globalization is friend or foe to proper freedom?
By asking these questions, we are, in turn, asking: What kind of polis, or community, ought we to have? What kind of work ought we to have? What kind of souls ought we to have? Will globalization bring us closer to or take us farther from these ideals?
My contention against unquestioning acceptance of globalization has three basic arguments: the argument from democracy, the argument from economy, and the argument from philosophy. This is my tentative thesis: globalization promotes individual freedom over community freedom, consumable wealth over sustainable wealth, and rational knowing over aletheia knowing—and that in this way, globalization contributes to the decline of healthy democracies, healthy economies, and healthy souls.
SB: The first problem in discussing globalization is defining the term itself. Much of the perceived disagreement over globalization comes because people are really arguing about different things altogether. It is as if one were to conduct a furious debate over the value of democracy, not realizing that one person thought democracy meant the system of government practiced in ancient Athens, another thought it meant post-Enlightenment liberalism, while the third defined it by reference to the democratic People’s Republic of China. Thus, one side might defend globalization, having defined it as the spread of free-market policies and free trade, and another side might attack globalization, having defined it in terms of the quite-unfree-market policies of the International Monetary Fund.
This is not to say that globalization is easy to define. The definitions typically offered are exceedingly vague and manipulable. Roland Robertson (Globalization, 1992) defines globalization as “the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole . . . concrete global interdependence and consciousness of the global whole in the twentieth century.” Malcolm Waters (Globalization, 1995) defines it as “a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding.” (See http://www.emory.edu/SOC/globalization/glossary.html.)
What these definitions mean in concrete terms, I have no idea, nor can I imagine how anyone could take a meaningful position for or against globalization so defined. It would be like arguing for or against interaction.
So the first task is to know what we are talking about—literally.
CS: Stuart is right to call for a closer definition of terms. Globalization, so far as I have used the term, is simply the expansion at home and abroad of liberalized democracy, corporate capitalism, and scientific rationalism, each with their tendency to centralize control and to treat all things as means and nothing as ends. This, I take it, is what most people vaguely think they are talking about when they talk about globalization. These are the forces that Francis Fukuyama proclaims triumphant at the “end of history.”
But even Fukuyama recognized that along with relative peace and prosperity, this global reign of centralized government, corporations, and science would usher in the age of Nietzsche’s “last man.” This last man is he who is so satiated with what is doled out to him that he ceases to strive and thus will soon cease to be human at all. C. S. Lewis called this process the “abolition of man,” whereby liberalization and rationalism conspire to create “men without chests”—men who possess both reason and appetite but who have no means by which their heads may rule their bellies.
The overwhelming success of these forces is their greatest advocate. But since September 11, 2001, Fukuyama’s thesis and the inevitability of globalization itself have been called into serious question. Since radical Islam has raised its head, many people have, rightly, stood in support of what is loosely termed “Western freedom” and in support of the Bush administration’s efforts to rout terrorism wherever it is found—I count myself among them. Thus, at this particular juncture of history, it is awkward (and may even be viewed as unpatriotic for an American) to announce any hesitation over the unimpeded advance of globalization. However, that radical Islam opposes both globalization’s progress and the things I hold dear does not make globalization necessarily friendly towards the latter.
Is there a coherent ground from which one might oppose both globalization and radical Islam? I believe there is. Instead of liberalized democracy, federal republicanism; instead of corporate capitalism, what G. K Chesterton called distributivism—a decentralized free market characterized by widespread ownership of private property; and instead of the rational mind, the imaginative mind—the religious mind.
DK: Looking at the previous Comment dialogue on globalization, I noticed how Jeremy Lott had no problem discussing globalization in very macro-level, abstract, process terms whereas Robert Waldrop was focused on super-specific, concrete, personal, people-with-names-stories-and-faces experiential terms. They were at two opposite extremes, and I want to know if there’s a middle ground.
We all agree on the need for a good, common-ground definition of globalization. I am mostly content with Caleb’s.
However, the expansion of corporate capitalism seems to mean an expansion of markets by a shrinkage of producers or elites who control the markets. The radical swerve toward global media monopolies, at least in the Western world—which defines itself as the centre—has raised a lot of concerns about the disappearance of a sufficiently free public sphere of discourse which then leads to the question of how liberal and democratic society is becoming. The centralizing control and utilitarianism Caleb speaks of is the negative, narrowing force that comes with and is enabled by economic expansion. That dynamic needs some recognition.
I’d also like to add that we shouldn’t just dismiss the common vague definitions of globalization as useless. Stuart is right that they are not useful for defining globalization, but they tell us something about how people are thinking of globalization. Why are they thinking in such vague terms? Why this language of an expanded consciousness, a social process bringing an end to provincial thinking as a holistic awareness of interdependence arises, the receding of “the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements”? Or, as the editors of The Economist have it, globalism is a living thing, “tugging us in the right direction,” needing our understanding and support?
There are a lot of religious or spiritual-sounding longings in this vague language. The Economist editors’ choice of metaphors has gnostic resonances, in the sense of Gnosticism Eric Voegelin used to describe modern political ideologies like Marxism. Looking at the vague and silly talk about globalization can expose some of the tensions that smarter writers are more adept at concealing.
Speaking of problematic things, I’d like to know how Caleb thinks distributivism, “a decentralized free market characterized by widespread ownership of private property” can come out of globalization, which he has said means centralized markets. What does this look like? McDonald’s franchises owned and operated by citizens of Nigeria with a certain measure of profits going into the local economy? Isn’t that how it already works?
As for promoting the imaginative, religious mind over the rational mind, a vibrant religious imagination isn’t necessarily a good thing—consider the likelihood of major clashes between religious groups in the global South (mainly between Christians and Muslims, but also between different Christian groups).
CS: What does it mean to be practical in the face of fate? At this point, the triumph of globalization certainly seems to be fated. However, there are other inevitabilities: the inevitability of death and disintegration and of war and pestilence and famine and the whole grab-bag of human miseries which have plagued our species since the beginning. Thus, I start with the concern that when the tide of globalization recedes, it will have left in shambles the defences humane society has built against the less-than-rosy inevitabilities. I think that when we speak of what is inevitable, it is also proper to speak of what is possible, and of what is desirable.
Take the idea of a decentralized market premised on widespread private ownership of property. Could a society pursue a distributivist economic agenda? Consider a few ideas. Restrict vertical integration wherever possible. If you want to grow food, you can’t transport or sell it across state/national lines. These kinds of restrictions used to be ubiquitous, in medical services, financial services, etc., but globalization has eroded them almost completely. Reduce reliance on legal fictions, the prime example being the fiction of the corporation. There is no reason at all why a corporate entity ought to be granted such structural advantages in our law over flesh and blood human beings. Scale back government programs that create movement of resources. And so on.
These are relatively simple reforms that do not violate the integrity of the free market yet would operate to nudge markets into decentralized channels of control. However, they will not be enacted soon because they require a spiritual recognition—a recognition that the forces of globalization (which is essentially a materialistic enterprise) cannot make. Which is why I emphasize the importance of an imaginative or religious mind.
Allen Tate wrote: “This modern mind sees only half of the horse—that half which may become a dynamo, or an automobile, or any other horsepowered machine. If this mind had much respect for the full-dimensioned, grass-eating horse, it would never have invented the engine which represents only half of him. The religious mind, on the other hand, has this respect; it wants the whole horse, and it will be satisfied with nothing less.”
This is what I mean when I talk about the imaginative mind—or religious mind—as a necessary check against the forces of globalization. Negotiating spiritual tensions requires that we stop viewing people as machines, as mere discreet materialistic units of production or consumption. We must respect our own blood and humanity; we must see the whole person.
Without a religious mind, the responses to globalization can only fall in two general categories. From the right, there’s Lott’s just lay back and enjoy it, and from the left, the anti-establishment radicals who generally embrace victimhood and the ethic of personal libertinism. Neither camp effectually confronts the problem because they are each, at their essence, operating from materialistic philosophies.
A better response, and the most practical one, I think, is simply a proper life—a life lived in propriety, a life characterized chiefly by humaneness. Such a life does not wear societal structures as a crown of privilege, nor is it so naÃ¯ve as to think that it can Christianize them, nor does it play the victim. Rather, it bears these structures as a burden, being willing to suffer as they cause suffering, to die as they cause death. In this way, the spiritual tensions are negotiated through us, not merely by us. Such a life can be a requiem to all that is being lost. And who knows, willingly losing oneself can lead to surprising places.
SB: I cannot entirely agree with Caleb’s definition of globalization, which includes liberalized democracy, corporate capitalism, and scientific rationalism. To this, he contrasts federal republicanism, distributivism, and the religious mind, respectively. While I am certainly open to a debate on the merits of each of these, I’m not sure why the first and third items are on this list.
If, say, Peru and Tibet, each in their own fashion, turn to a more liberal democratic form of government, I see no reason why this change should be called globalization. Neither do I see why globalization would be an apt term if people in, say, South Africa and Uzbekistan happened to turn to scientific rationalism and away from religion. In neither case would the globe necessarily have anything to do with it. What I hope to avoid is a definition of globalization so all-encompassing that it would take several books to have a proper discussion.
Instead, I think that globalization might be most profitably defined in more narrow, economic terms. I would rely on the three-tiered definition that Brink Lindsey suggests in Against the Dead Hand (2001): (1) an expansion of economic trade between countries; (2) the elimination of legal barriers to free trade (which causes number 1); (3) the political trend towards legal reform (which causes number 2).
One must resist the temptation to define globalization as necessarily including particular positions on politics, economics, philosophy, and religion not only because that makes globalization too broad a term but also because it is inaccurate. Some favour globalization because they want to achieve even greater riches by trading with foreign countries. Others favour globalization because they think that free trade is the best hope for poor countries to emerge out of poverty. Some oppose globalization for the same greedy reason that others support it—because they want to retain high-paying jobs for people such as themselves, in the process denying such jobs to far poorer foreigners. Others oppose globalization because they think that it exploits poorer foreigners. And this is not an exhaustive list of reasons, by any means.
People support or oppose globalization because of a wide variety of assumptions, motivations, and philosophies. There is rampant greed on all sides and sincere altruism on all sides. But this diversity is obscured if one begins by defining globalization as inherently implying a particular view of politics and philosophy. That’s why I think it may be more productive to separate the economic phenomenon from the conflicting worldviews involved on either side.
Such separation is not always easy, of course, or even possible. If you think that globalization (as I’ve defined it) empirically causes people to turn towards rationalism and away from religion, then that will influence your point of view. Still, it is stacking the deck to define globalization as anti-religious, thereby short-circuiting the very debate about what, precisely, globalization does imply for religion. It’s all too easy to set up an automatic win by defining the terms of the debate.
I think Dan is on the right track when he speaks of finding a middle ground of discourse between the extremes. When globalization is discussed, just as when anything else of importance is discussed, the supporters tend to paint it as all benefits and no costs, while the opposition paint it as all costs and no benefits. In the previous Comment debate, for instance, Jeremy Lott said that globalization is “one of the most fortunate developments ever to occur on God’s green earth,” while Robert Waldrop characterized it as a “demonic manifestation of the culture of death.”
Caleb suggests that, as a modest first step towards the ideal of distributivism, we might ban the shipment of food across state or national lines. I think this would be disastrous. Consider the many people who live in northern regions—Chicago, Boston, much of Europe and Russia. Are they never to be allowed to eat the many fruits and vegetables that they could not possibly grow in their climates? Must they spend their long winters eating beef jerky and scrounging for nuts and roots?
Trade in general exists for a very good reason: under most circumstances, it is to both sides’ advantage. To take a highly simplified example, imagine that you are, for whatever reason, unable to do anything with your life except catch lobsters. And imagine that your neighbour can’t do anything except grow oranges. Wouldn’t you want to trade some food with your neighbour, rather than eat lobster for every meal?
If trade is desirable between you and your neighbour, why should trade suddenly become undesirable because of the boundaries between states/provinces or countries? If California can produce oranges better than Maine (and it can), and Maine can produce lobsters better than California (and it can), then both Californians and Mainers are better off if they can trade between themselves. Without trade, Mainers would be stuck with a fruitless diet, while Californians would never get good lobster. Trade generally makes things better for everyone.
The same is true on a global scale. No country is precisely the equivalent of any other country. All countries have a different distribution of natural resources, labour, capital, education, and other qualities. That’s why one country will be good at producing cars, a second is better at producing computers, a third is better at producing clothing, and so on. All countries, on average, are going to be better off if they are both (1) able to sell the stuff that they are good at producing to other countries, and (2) able to buy the stuff they are not good at producing from other countries.
This is true for the same reason that you are better off if you can concentrate on producing one thing that you are good at (whether it be English scholarship or lawyering) and buy everything else you need from other people. If you tried to do everything for yourself—farming your own food, growing livestock, mining and smelting metal to build various household objects (but where would you get the tools in the first place?), mining graphite and chopping wood to construct pencils, growing cotton and making needles so as to sew your own clothes—well, you would never have more than the most threadbare existence. Specialization and trade—both on a personal and country-wide level—allows people to concentrate on what they are best at and thus provides them an opportunity to benefit from the work of other people as well.
CS: Stuart, I do not suggest that we restrict the trade of food across borders. What I suggest is restrictions on vertical integration. Food growers should not be permitted to also own the trucking outfits, the cold storage plants, the processing facilities, and the retail outlets. That is the situation we currently have: absentee corporate ownership of huge farms, say, 50,000 acre dairy farms, along with the trucking, storage, processing, and, ultimately, the retail store where you get the product.
What happens is that these growers/brokers/marketers are able to make enormous profits on the brokering, transporting, and storing of food. They claim that the system creates efficiency and ultimately benefits the consumer. But they don’t like to admit that the profits they make on the back end mean that they never make any money on the front end of production. In other words, the farms aren’t profitable. And they’re not meant to be. They’re kept as a huge source of product, a huge source of tax advantage, and a huge source of government handouts.
These centralizers have finagled a structural advantage in the law that there is no reason they should have.
One end result is the decline of sound farming. The idea of breaking up this operation should not be foreign to a free-marketer’s ears (in fact, I contend that my argument is made from free-market principals, not in spite of them): it is a simple anti-trust concept.
DK: We can focus on economic globalization for convenience, but I don’t see what your difficulty is with the other two points, Stuart. It is impossible for Tibet to become more democratic or Uzbekistan to turn to scientific rationalism without Western influences. Native Micronesian islanders, Malaysian kids, and white American suburban kids who adopt aspects of African-American urban culture do so in their own distinctive way, but the origins in U.S. black culture, which have gone global, are clear.
It is more consistent to focus on the economic phenomena while paying attention to the (unpredictable!) influence of the religious and cultural variables on the economic.
Caleb does not stack the deck by defining globalization necessarily as anti-religious. He says it has modern Western rationalistic and materialistic bases and influences. Would you agree, Caleb, that globalization in this form, coming out of the West, might be altered to conform more to other values and worldviews? As I understand Caleb, that’s what he hopes to see—not only that Westerners will change the religious/ideological grounds of globalization as they practice it, but also that, say, Africans will do so.
I think Caleb’s recommendations might fare better outside the West, or at least in places where Western modernity has had less influence. But, Stuart, perhaps you object to defining even Western notions of globalization as materialistic? If so, I disagree with that objection. There are likely to be some exceptions, but in the main these notions seem very materialistic. This isn’t anti-religious, because materialism is a religion, particularly when it’s accompanying scientific rationalism.
On food trade, we think technology can let us take any product to any market with no significant drawbacks. But the fact is every second perishables (especially meat and dairy) are kept in transit between producers and consumers, the nutritional value decreases and the risk of disease increases. Many foods really ought to be produced and consumed within a relatively small area. And we need to protect smaller producers.
Regions that seriously lack the water and arable land to produce grain are forced into a big dependence on foreign producers, which means serious economic and strategic risks. This is why a lot of Middle Eastern countries have gone nuts with deep wells and desert irrigation to the point they’ve exhausted aquifers which then fill with seawater. No more farming after that, and lots of opportunity for wars stemming from water/food/land issues.
I don’t see how globalization will do anything to help these problems—it could make them worse. China’s water and food needs are immense, and if there is enough famine at some point, the richer grain exporting countries might shut the poorer but equally needy ones out of the market. The free market isn’t going to settle these problems unless you think mass starvation and wars are inevitable. There needs to be more thinking about expanding markets as coming with expanded responsibility to consumers.
CS: Dan, I think, has appropriately answered Stuart’s stacking-the-deck objection to my definition of globalization. The economic is necessarily social, which is necessarily political, which is necessarily moral, which is necessarily religious.
I want to clearly delineate two tracks in our discussion. On the one hand, it is important to think about what is possible and what is desirable. What practical changes can we imagine and argue for that might be put into place. So when I discuss a particular policy as desirable to curb what I see as the destructive aspects of globalization, I am proceeding along the first track. The second track is more elusive, yet perhaps the more important. It tries to answer the question: how shall we live when we stake out essentially lost positions? I think it is vitally important to proceed in life and thought along both of these tracks at the same time.
I’m not opposed to either trade or specialization. In general, these things can be either good or bad, or both, or neither. I do not mean to suggest that no trade should be allowed or that everyone has to mine and smelt iron-ore for their dinner plates, or whatever. I am talking about simple anti-trust stuff.
Allow me to translate Stuart’s definition of globalization into its real world, practical effect by loosely paraphrasing Wendell Berry: Globalization is the expansion and enlargement of the modern practice of individuals to write proxies to corporations and governments to provide for their every need—food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, education, child care, health care, elder care, police protection, justice, mercy, and God—all of which were previously provided by the individual, the family, or the community.
In return for these services, people give up their autonomy, their individuality, their independence, their freedom, their will, their imagination, their skill, their community, their families, the very ground under their feet, and, ultimately, their souls. Allen Tate had the metaphor just about right: globalization is simply the process of turning what was a living organism into a machine.
Now, I know Stuart will not like this flight of rhetorical fancy. He’ll rightly demand to know how I go from A to Z.
Back in the 1980s, Nico Colchester, an editor for The Economist, wrote a very short essay called “Crunchiness” which quickly became a cult favourite. In the piece, Colchester contrasted what he termed “crunchy” economic policies with “soggy” policies. Colchester explained:
Crunchy systems are those in which small changes have big effects leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive. The going was crunchy for Captain Scott as he plodded southwards across the sastrugi. He was either on top of the snow-crust and smiling, or floundering thigh-deep. The farther south he marched the crunchier his predicament became. Sogginess is comfortable uncertainty. The modern Scott is unsure how deeply he is in it. He can radio for an airlift, or drop in on an American early-warning station for a hot toddy. . . . Light-switches no longer turn on or off: they dim.
Colchester’s thesis was this: “Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy.” So let me switch from Tate’s metaphor to Colchester’s. Globalization is the process of turning crunchy systems into soggy ones.
The whole centralizing tendency of globalization is predicated on the need to keep people in a “comfortable uncertainty.” Thus, it is propped up by false systems of accounting. For example, Colchester pointed to the advent of floating interest rate lending as a soggy policy. Whereas fixed rate lending is crunchy (i.e., both parties know precisely where they stand), the move to floating rates has reduced the necessity of commitment, and “the result is a need for puzzlingly high rates of interest to curb consumer borrowing.” Other examples abound, from the insurance industry to health care to the vertically integrated dairy farmer/broker/retailer that I spoke of earlier. Each conceals, in a comfortable way, the true cost of its operation from the consumer. Each makes the consumer feel that he is up or rich or winning or alive, when the reality is that he may be closer to being down or poor or losing or dead.
Clearly, as Colchester recognizes, this kind of soggy system cannot continue indefinitely. It will, in the end, lead to poverty. This is because where the true cost is concealed, some kind of capital reserve account is being depleted. And this is the current situation; all of our capital reserve accounts are being depleted by the soggy machine of globalization: natural resource reserve accounts, political goodwill reserve accounts, social capital reserve accounts, imaginative reserve accounts, and moral reserve accounts.
This will continue so long as we resolve to remain soggily comfortable and sated, willingly entering into the Faustian bargain with bigger and bigger corporations and governments, willingly letting the centralizers bleed control away from the local and into the central.
SB: I do not mean to imply that economics should be analyzed free from any consideration of morals, philosophy, or religion. Rather, I suggest that the economics of globalization might, far from leading to a clear-cut answer, instead pose a difficult and perhaps intractable question. On one view, globalization might be a duty; on another view, globalization might be a sin.
As time goes on and more research is done, it is becoming ever more clear that globalization—in the sense of increased trade between countries—makes just about everyone better off in material terms, all things considered. That is not to say that globalization is cost-free, that it has no dangers, no victims, and no potential for devastation. But on average, globalization leads to greater material prosperity for both Third World countries and for Western countries. Surjit Bhalla demonstrates this quite persuasively in his 2002 book I magine There’s No Country: Poverty, Inequality, and Growth in the Era of Globalization (available online at http://22.214.171.124/publications/pub.cfm?pub_id=348).
Bhalla demonstrates that the last 50 years, which have seen vast increases in globalization (however defined), have also seen a general decline in poverty and a shift toward greater equality of income. In material terms, globalization looks like a winner.
So, on one view, one might suggest that duty demands that one support globalization. If globalization empirically leads to more poor people having a way to feed themselves, then it would seem that we should support it.
Is it materialistic to support globalization because it leads to greater material prosperity for poor people? If we were talking about the merits of soap, and I said that the benefit of soap is that it makes people cleaner, it would be odd for the response to be, “That’s just a materialistic view.” And if we’re talking about an economic system, the most relevant question is whether it does what economic systems are suppose to do—allow people to reach greater prosperity and spend their time doing things more enjoyable and enriching than shovelling manure. If they choose to spend their time watching The Bachelor, rather than composing literate and thoughtful essays on globalization, then more’s the pity—but that is a choice for which they are responsible, not a reason to condemn all material prosperity.
On the other hand, one might think that globalization is bad precisely because it makes people richer on average. . . .
Does globalization lead to greater centralization? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It may lead to larger corporations, but I remain unconvinced that this is something to worry about. There is a natural limit to the size of corporations. At a certain size, the transaction costs of largeness outweigh the benefits of size—which is why corporations spin off subsidiaries, outsource various tasks to other corporations, sell off divisions. And beyond the realm of deliberate action, large cumbersome corporations often find themselves outdone by nimbler, smaller, more innovative competitors.
But if one is mainly concerned with reducing the size and scope of corporations, I know of no way to do it without the forceful hand of a powerful government. It is a false and hyperbolic parallel that would equate large corporations with large government. Governments face no competitive pressures to downsize, innovate, or spin off divisions. Governments maintain a monopoly on the use of deadly force, and once they begin the trend of growing bigger, few things can stop them short of a war or revolution. Whereas all it takes to make IBM smaller is for people to stop buying its products. That’s why, in the grand scheme of things, I am much more concerned about centralization of force and control in the hands of government than I am about the same trends in the business world.
Globalization is likely, on balance, to be of benefit to the poor people of the world. To the extent it is not, the reason is likely to be a lack of sufficient property rights and other legal protections, rather than anything inherent to globalization per se. I know of no means to stop globalization other than creating powerful governments dedicated to restricting freedom and efficiency, and such governments (judging from the entire history of the world) are likely to pose far greater dangers than any corporation ever has.
DK: We seem to have reached an agreement on several fundamental points. First, as Stuart suggests, “the economics of globalization might, far from leading to a clear-cut answer, instead pose a difficult and perhaps intractable question.”
Second, none of us are in favour of an absolute opposition to globalization, and we all see great potential for good in it. But between absolute opposition and absolute support—between seeing globalization as a sin and seeing it as a duty—we recognize “that globalization is not cost-free, that it does have dangers, victims, and potential for devastation.”
You can commit to working hard to maximize the benefits while minimizing the hazards of globalization—say, through advocacy for restrictions on vertical integration—and I think this is exactly what some people need to take up as their calling. But they and their supporters will be mistaken if they expect that their program is going to grasp and refashion societal structures into something wholly good or even something that’s not very bad or only bad some of the time for some people.
I think of Tolkien’s ring of power here—we can’t wear it and transform it; we have to bear it until the end of the world, trying to contain and mitigate its evil short of wearing it, all the while being poisoned by it.