09 March 2006

oh baby it's a wild world

It's always kind of...comforting?..to run across an article that more or less reflects what you believe but manages to say it so much better. Such is the case with this piece in the Times of London on globalisation. I've done just enough trade policy work and studied just enough economics to recognise the benefits that trade brings. However, the most recent trade mania - dating from the fall of the Berlin Wall perhaps - has been accompanied by outrageous claims about the gains and precious little about the inevitable costs.

I used to read reams of this sort of stuff, written by my fellow trade toilers, which would always conclude with a single throw-away line, "there will be some adjustment costs". The "adjustment costs" so fleetingly referred to by someone in comfortable secure employment usually meant the jobs of those with no skills to easily pick up new employment. I thought about men, women, families, homes, children and pride. I thought about lives shattered and dreams obliterated. I also thought about my own comfortable, secure employment.

"Adjustment costs". Well this makes me a wringing wet latte luvvie, but the ease with which someone else's whole life can be dismissed is wrong, wrong, wrong. And don't think it can't come back to bite.

Later that week: Crikey.com.au catches up with venividblogi: "Will globalisation turn out to be another concept that has been mis-sold to the same old group of decent, unremarkable people whom you never hear about until they get shafted by a system they trusted?" asks Camilla Cavendish in The Times (UK) – because the globalised economic models sold to us aren't working as well as we were told. As previously forgotten countries like India and China grow to become full of intelligent, well-educated global citizens, mixed with a growing underclass, "the stage is set for an ugly clash within countries, as well as between them." Economists need to ask some hard questions, because at the moment "our political discourse seems strangely complacent."

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