What Global Capitalism Has Done for the World in Four Books
EspañolIf you are reading this right now, it is thanks to globalization. In fact, the PanAm Post team exists today thanks to the ease of communication that the internet provides. Only 30 years ago, it would have been very difficult to imagine working with a multinational team on a daily basis, despite the majority of us never having met in person.
Globalization, along with capitalism, has achieved these advances and created new opportunities on a level without historical precedent. The internet revolution and the connected world can only be compared to Gutenberg’s printing press, the industrial revolution, and the steam engine. However, unlike these previous inventions, the culmination of the globalization revolution has yet to fully arrive.
Capitalism and globalization can be seen as two sides to the same coin, a coin which has endowed great prosperity upon mankind. With this in mind, I have compiled a selection of readings that will lend context to the globalization phenomenon.
In order to gain a fuller understanding of globalization, Swedish author Johan Norberg offers us his books In Defense of Global Capitalism, Four Decades that Changed our Planet (Spanish only), and an essay titled Globalization and the Poor. And in defense of a truly free socioeconomic system, Students for Liberty has compiled a collection of essays, The Morality of Capitalism.
The Flow of Ideas: The Engine of Economic Progress
In his book In Defense of Global Capitalism, Norberg discusses how freedom has gained great momentum during the age of globalization.
Through diverse analysis of the reduction of poverty and hunger, the increasing level of education and democracy, and the transformation of Asia, Norberg explains that none of these accomplishments have come about by chance. Rather, these advancements have been precipitated by the flow of ideas that has enabled globalization and the implementation of capitalism.
A small taste of the new ideas, images, sounds, and customs offered by distant lands provokes irresistible human curiosity. Upon realizing that the world is full of options, people naturally demand greater freedom and the ability to exercise their inherent capacity to choose what is best for themselves. And with greater freedom comes greater economic progress, as the author explains.
Norberg also delves into the realm of poverty and suggests that the parameters for determining level of poverty are highly relative. The issue is further explored in Globalization and the Poor, in which the author poses the questions: what is relative and absolute poverty? Are these the best measures to determine how a poor person lives?
One of the myths surrounding globalization is that it has led to an increase in poverty. Norberg explains, however, that in 1820, 85 percent of humanity lived on a dollar a day. Since then, many countries have been able to escape this misery.
In his books, Norberg analyzes three economic miracles: Sweden, Vietnam, and Taiwan. At one time, these three countries were open to foreign trade and voluntary exchange with other countries, and their laws recognized property rights for citizens. With these changes, individuals from these countries entered the global market ready to compete and increase their productivity.
In the words of Kofi Annan, during the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in February of 2000, “The main losers in today’s very unequal world are not those who are too much exposed to globalization. They are those who have been left out.”
As a compliment to his studies on globalization, Norberg also published the book Four Decades That Changed Our Planet. Here, the Swedish writer analyzes data from multiple international organizations, including the United Nations, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank, among others, to demonstrate that development statistics must be examined from different angles and with varied measurement techniques.
Norberg writes that all technical shortcomings and mistakes must be noted in order to arrive at the most accurate conclusions possible.
When conlcuding his analysis, Norberg explains that globalization is not the sole cause for all recent improvements in quality of life, but is a chief contributor through the promotion of economic progress and the spread of knowledge, ideas, and technology.
Thanks to globalization and trade, human development is advancing quickly and now includes more people than in previous eras. “These are the good old days,” he concludes.
Understanding the Morality of Capitalism
Standing in opposition to the idea that capitalism is rarely related to morality, The Morality of Capitalism (What Your Professors Won’t Tell You) explains why capitalism is ideal for creating wealth, overcoming the natural state of poverty, and increasing personal freedom. Through various essays, the book explains the difference between free-market capitalism and the crony capitalism responsible for the economic crises of 2008.
For capitalism to be properly implemented, it must go hand in hand with economic freedom. The result of these two factors has brought progress to humanity, more than any other previous economic system. Capitalism enables people to choose how and by what means they will earn their living, and then enjoy the benefits.
The Morality of Capitalism is a collection of essays whose authors include two Nobel Prize winners — Mario Vargas Llosa and Vernon Smith — and an interview with the cofounder of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey. Throughout the book’s four parts, the authors analyze the virtues of entrepreneurial capitalism, voluntary action and self interest, and the globalization of capitalism.
David Boaz explains the necessity of competition and cooperation by highlighting the establishment of a market where people cooperate in order to compete. According to Boaz, cooperation is so essential that humans have created institutions to facilitate it, such as property rights, limited government intervention, and the rule of law.
The book also includes discussion on equality as an end result, as well as a value in itself. In contrast, it discusses Russian philosopher Leonid V. Nikonov’s argument that inequality is the necessary precondition to trade, without which such activity would be meaningless.
The book closes with an essay by Mario Vargas Llosa about the culture of freedom. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature explains the effects of globalization on the “cultural identity” of society. “Cultures need to live in freedom,” Llosa maintains, while disputing the idea that cultural identity has remained static throughout history.
These books are similarly critical of any philosophy that seeks to eliminate material inequality simply because it is considered detrimental: is it wrong for some to become millionaires, while millions of others simultaneously lift themselves from poverty at the hands of the same system?
The advancement of globalization does not mean that the world is now perfect, but it does mean that the conditions in which we live have improved considerably. In order to make further progress and foster better and more advanced markets, we must work towards increased liberty.