Overblown Fears

#10

Globalization

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A container terminal in Hamburg, Germany

A container terminal in Hamburg, Germany

The simple definition of globalization is the interweaving of markets, technology, information systems, and telecommunications networks in a way that is shrinking the world from a size medium to a size small. It began decades ago, but accelerated dramatically over the past 10 years, as the price of computing power fell and the world became an ever-more densely interconnected place. People resist this shift — see, for example, the G8 protests of 2001 (one of the bloodiest uprisings in recent European history) or the recent rioting in Pittsburgh at this year’s G20 conference—because they think it primarily benefits big business elites to the detriment of everyone else. But globalization didn’t ruin the world—it just flattened it. And on balance that can benefit everyone, especially the poor. Globalization has pulled millions of people out of poverty in India and China, and multiplied the size of the global middle class. It has raised the global standard of living faster than that at any other time in the history of the world, and it is supporting astounding growth. All world economic activity was valued at $7 trillion in 1950. That’s equal to how much growth took place over just the past decade, even including the recent downturn. Whatever people’s fears of change, globalization is here to stay—and, if properly managed, it will be a good thing.

Friedman is a columnist for The New York Times, and the author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How It Can Renew America.

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