28 August 2003

Globalization is Breeding Hatred and Violence Around the World

What initially caused me to pick up a copy of World on Fire by Amy Chua was the listed endorsements from neconservative pundit Thomas Sowell and leftist Barbara Ehrenreigh on the back book sleeve. I couldn't fathom any common ground those two shared, thus my curiousity was aroused. The author, neither a proponent or detractor of globalization, lays the case in plain English that rapid democratization and full scale export of laissez faire capitalism is fermenting hatred and violence around the globe.

The author introduces the text with a personal story about her affluent Aunt's violent murder in the Phillipines. Describing how a small minority of Chinese dominate Filipino industry and commerce at every level contrasted against the poverty that embraces a majority of Filipinos, Chua sets the backdrop for her thesis challenging the conventional wisdom that exporting "free market democracy" would transform the world into a "community of modernized, peace-loving nations, and individuals into civic-minded citizens and consumers". Instead, we have witnessed ethnic violence, religous zealotry and hateful resentment. The Balkans, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Rwanda and other recent current eruptions of ethnic violence serve up tragic proof.

Why? How did the globalization champions like Thomas Friedman miss the mark? Well, Chua contends that it's the combination of "market dominant minorities", implementation of unfettered laissez faire capitalism, and rapid democratization enabling impoverished majorities to lash back. The phenomenon of market dominant minorities can occur on a national level, like in the Phillipines, or on a regional level, as in the middle east where 220 million largely poor Arabs co-exist with 5 million more prosperous Jews. Or on a national stage, as America is perceived as controlling the world, to the detriment of natives across the globe. Post 9/11 anti-Americanism was cited - while we view our economic success as the result of entrepreneurial spirit and generations of hard work, others say our wealth and power are the "spoils of plunder, exploitation, and exclusion".

Add powerful forces of full scale democratization and free market capitalism to pre-existing market dominant minorities, and deadly brew is produced. Why has this model historically worked in the U.S. (and west in general) but on the other hand been destructive (at least for the average inhabitant) for developing nations? Well, there are two big factors. First, the type of capitalism being thrust upon the rest of the world is more akin to a theoretical model of raw laissez faire capitalism that was rebuffed here almost a hundred years ago. Child labor laws, worker safety, environment protections, social security, affirmitive action, medicare and other aid programs provide checks and controls over abuses and immoral behavoir. A social safety net helps folks get back on their feet and sees that the disadvantaged and elderly are taken care of. The brand of market philosophy the IMF and World Bank push on the third world is more like the gross excesses witnessed in the Gilded Age, where robber barons openly bragged about buying legislators and workers were treated as chattel. In such a setup, market inequality widens - a small segment profits beyond belief while the masses suffer or linger in poverty, toiling in slave like conditions.

Now, throw in an accelerated conversion from monarchy, or another form of authoritarian government, to fledgeling democracy. The oppressed masses now have the numbers to inflict pain back to those who they've resented and blame, rightfully or wrongfully, and the measures they may wish to take, often are lawless, brutal, and equally if not more violent than they experienced under "minority control". In the U.S., suffrage evolved over time. We're not proud of it, for a long period women, African-Americans, native Americans, and even initially property less white men could not vote. This is in stark contrast to how democracy is instituted now in the world, where one day, all are eligible to participate in the political process.

In the last chapter, Chua proposes some solutions but tapers their appeal with an honest assessment of their viability. Education and sociological study isn't the ticket - for example, the 9/11 hijackers were very well educated. Affirmative action type programs and wealth redistribution initiatives could help but in most nations, there's not a big enough pot for everyone to dip into. The pace of democratization could be stalled, but that's not a panacea, as royal monarchs and ill motivated dictators can wreak just as much devastation. And who's to claim that a sovereign individual should not have a say in how he is goverened? Perhaps, greater emphasis can be placed on constitutional stipulations that protect and guarantee property rights and codify humane treatment. But, the mob, once in power can retract and recall such stipulations easier than they were added. Finally, market dominated minorities could display "voluntary generosity" and via benevolent giving and outreach to the communities, foster goodwill. Sounds nice, but with the advances of globalization, I believe that increasingly controllers and community are not in proximity, separated not by gates and walls, but oceans, rendering such attempts as miniscule or trivial.

Myself, I don't know what the answers are. Chua's book has challenged my thinking, though. Somehow, we're going to move past globalization, as we did colonization. Probably not in my lifetime, but I'm pondering it still...


Globalization and Free Trade miss the mark becaue those in power work outside any democratic process without consent of the workers involved. Workers are the main part of any economy and with Free Trade have little say about their workday.

Some elite grouping, vast trans-national corporations and world entities like the WTO and the World Bank decides for them.

History shows that the workers will not tolerate this for very long.
Globalism does breed terrorism and wars and for more related information see Tapart News and Art that Talks.
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