Why the Critics of Globalization Are Mistaken

Bhagwati, Jagdish N.

I am certain that, if he were alive today, he would be deeply involved in the great debates over Globalization in which we find ourselves. So, I have decided to address the issues that the anti-Globalization critics have raised, since they dominate much of the public space, particularly in the rich countries. I wish to argue that the critics of Globalization are mistaken. To respond adequately to the critics of Globalization, however, it is useful to recall what Rabbi Hillel, who lived in the time of Herod, said: "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am I?" (He did go on to add: "And, if not now, when?", a prescription that has less appeal, I am afraid, to many who would rather follow St. Augustine who famously said: "Dear God, grant me chastity, but not yet"). What the Rabbi was saying was that we have, or must have, both altruism and self-interest to define our lives. But, in truth, on this spectrum, few lie in the center but tend to gravitate towards one end or the other. And this is just what we find among the critics of Globalization. Several are altruistic; they proceed from empathy, thinking that Globalization is malign in its impact on humanity, on what might be called "social issues." But a large number are also proceeding instead from self-interest, actuated by fear. These include mainly the labor unions that fear their wages and standards will collapse with Globalization, and others who fear that the overall prosperity of their nation is also at risk. As it happens, both sets of critics are mistaken; and so let me treat each separately, starting with the criticisms based on altruism and empathy, where I will conclude that, instead of lacking a Human Face, Globalization Has a Human Face.



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January 28, 2013