Capital's promise, not Capitol promise

Ethan Zuckerman reviews Globalization and Its Enemies, which suggests that "globalization is immobile" - that capital and opportunity still flow too slowly between regions of the world. The question: how do we consistently grow wealth?

One key is to correctly identify the problem, which in book author's view is not exploitation of richer regions by poorer regions. The problem is movement. The things advanced economies take for granted - mobility, the "death of distance," capital flows - are largely illusory for much of the rest of the world. Globalization must instead live up to its promise - more trade, not less - more capital flows, not less - more opportunity, not less.

Here [Daniel] Cohen is inspired by Amartya Sen and his idea of development as freedom - economic development increases the ability of individuals to act and the possibilities they, as individuals, can explore. The problem of globalization up to now is it has altered people’s expectations more than it has increased their ability to act (emphasis supplied).

Following up on that idea, Ethan works in some thoughts about the power of media to address these shortcomings. My thought: one billion people connected to a relatively low cost time- and place-shifted network of ideas is an enormous and growing achievement.

Second thought: hope is a powerful thing. With it, great things can happen. Without it, virtually nothing. If broadcast media can create a perception gap, then perhaps personal media can offer hope that the development of ideas - which is fast becoming the basis of modern wealth - will be more evenly distributed in the future.

Ethan concludes:

this is one of the most useful books I’ve found in advancing conversations about globalization beyond arguments of whether it’s good or bad. It’s both and neither - and it’s inevitable. By understanding that the issue is uneven access to productive capacity, not the “inherently exploitative” nature of global capitalism, Cohen gives us a hope of focusing our debates on places where we can have economic leverage. And, at roughly 170 pages, it’s got the best ratio of big ideas to pages I’ve encountered in a long time - it’s very much worth a read if you’re interested in debates that range farther than free market inevitability versus Altermonde.


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