Globalisation encourages domination by capitalist models
Alongside the spread of Neoliberalism came increased ‘globalisation’ which is, I’ve learned, also the process by which the world economy has become dominated by capitalist models. Although Wikipaedia gives me something of an idea of what is involved, the complexity of it has almost defeated me. Another uphill climb!
I really don’t want to get bogged down here but I feel I need some understanding so I soldier on….
- The breakdown of national barriers to the movement of financial capital has made it possible for corporations and individuals to bank their money in countries where taxes are lowest. They can sell their products and services in another country whose infrastructure is paid for out of the national coffers into which they pay very little. In 2018 Mr Amazon’s corporation tax bill halved despite UK profits tripling. The gradual destruction of small local businesses by the big boys means less money going to government so less money for public services. The austerity budget, introduced to bail out the failing banks after the 2008 financial crash, has punished the poor through an on-going deterioration of education, health and police services.
- Computers have made it possible to move financial capital swiftly so that when a country’s economy begins to look weak, money is moved to a more lucrative currency. This surely gives capital massive power over national governments who must maintain a corporate-friendly environment and keep a close eye on their growth figures above all else.
- In the latter half of the 20th Century migration introduced cheap labour into developed countries, undermining the living conditions of local workers. A big issue in the Brexit vote. This coincided with a massive drop in trade union membership which reduced worker bargaining power at the same time as Executive pay was spiralling upwards. Rising inequality has become a number one problem.
- The International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation have oiled the wheels of international trade. The IMF makes loans to countries so that they can build the infrastructure necessary for development and the WTO has introduced trade agreements so that barriers to trade have gradually been removed.
Has globalisation been good for us?
The most crucial question I need to ask is: ‘Is globalisation good for us?’ Does it drag millions out of poverty and into the ‘good life’ or is it at the root of many of our 21st Century problems?
Answers are not easy to find and after lots of reading, pondering and discussing, I’ve come across some pretty contradictory and confusing conclusions:
- Globalisation has lifted millions out of poverty with many seeing a huge increase in their material standard of living.
- Improved public health, vaccination, wonder drugs and worldwide epidemic alerts, have seen the eradication of many diseases BUT In countries where ‘development’ has been rapid there have been huge increases in ‘lifestyle’ diseases – diabetes, obesity, heart diseases and mental illness. Teeth decay often results from eating convenience foods
- Slavery is often cited as a thing of the past BUT millions of poor workers (including children) in developing countries work very long hours for barely subsistence wages and huge numbers of people are working for no pay in order to pay off what they owe people traffickers. Slavery in the UK – in car washes, construction sites, nail parlours and even in domestic households – has been acknowledged by the government who set up a fund to help tackle the problem at home and abroad.
- Our worship of material consumption has had a massive impact on the natural environment of planet Earth. There’s good reason why the term ‘Anthropocene’ (the age of Man) was coined for the age in which we are living. It has been identified as a new epoch of geological time and with good reason: We’ve bored holes in our search for oil, removed mountain tops to extract coal, littered the oceans with billions of plastic beads and polluted the atmosphere with toxic gases. We sure have made our mark!
- Our remorseless search for land to cultivate and natural resources to extract means that the destruction of swathes of natural environment has led to the extinction of a huge number of animal and plant species.
- Globalisation is moving us to a Western-style monoculture where national dress is giving way to jeans, expensive handbags (for the few!) and expensive trainers. Other cultures have been led to feel their way of life is inferior and have felt undervalued and undermined .
- The wealth of many international corporations exceeds the wealth of some countries and their power often undermines democracy
- On top of all that, research is showing that huge gains in material wealth are not producing higher levels of well-being and happiness. Increases in depression, alcoholism and crime are seen as indicators of an increase in unhappiness even among those who ‘have it all’.
Although massive benefits have been gained, it feels as if a very high price has been paid.