Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do we love globalisation?

The Harvard Economist Dani Rodrik has pointed out that the FT's conclusions from its latest survey on globalisation (which we covered recently) are shaky, at best, for the survey's results appear to conflict with the results of an earlier one. Rodrik concludes:

The FT reports citizens of rich countries view globalization as an "overwhelmingly negative force" . . . (the other survey) shows an overwhelming majority of Americans think globalization is mostly good.

So which is it? Do American love or hate globalization? Or does it not matter, since none of the relevant decisions will be made by majority vote?

(TJN does not oppose or support globalisation per se - like most people who've looked seriously into it, we think it has positive aspects, and negative ones.) Maybe the Oxford-based Alex Cobham can untangle Rodrik's conundrum:

A recent poll has been interpreted as showing that people oppose globalisation, and used to argue that politicians must do more to sell it. This is nonsense on stilts - the public have very specific concerns, and politicians have ignored these in favour of pursuing their own interests. It remains to be seen whether this is sustainable - but even if it is, it will be evidence not of a rejection of a globalisation but of a serious democratic deficit. . . . this poll is one more piece of evidence that the public in rich countries, while embracing many aspects of globalisation, are deeply concerned about the impact on their societies of unfettered and untaxed international financial flows. Policymakers should forget trying to sell this, and focus instead on the public's reasonable worries. There is no backlash against globalisation, only against growing inequality and social immobility. Failure to act will increasingly suggest a widespread democratic deficit.

And what is the answer? The New York Times, citing evidence that "excessive corporate tax breaks have done little for workers and have served mainly to concentrate wealth among the few," poses one answer in the form of a rhetorical question:

Where is the politician who will take an over-my-dead-body approach to future tax holidays and who will broach the need for new corporate taxes?

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