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SG-W:/ Globalization, the Environment, Quebec and Ralph Nader



An op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times, by Paul Krugman, an Economist at 
Princeton University, may be of interest, including the sentences: 

"The anti-globalization movement already has a remarkable track record of 
hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.

"The most spectacular example was last year's election. You might say that 
because people with no heads indulged their idealism by voting for Ralph 
Nader, people with no hearts are running the world's most powerful nation."

Here's the link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/22/opinion/22KRUG.html   
(May require FREE registration.) 

And here's the text of the column:

April 22, 2001 

Hearts and Heads
By PAUL KRUGMAN

There is an old European saying: anyone who is not a socialist before he is 
30 has no heart; anyone who is still a socialist after he is 30 has no head. 
Suitably updated, this applies perfectly to the movement against 
globalization - the movement that made its big splash in Seattle back in 1999 
and is doing its best to disrupt the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City 
this weekend.

The facts of globalization are not always pretty. If you buy a product made 
in a third-world country, it was produced by workers who are paid incredibly 
little by Western standards and probably work under awful conditions. Anyone 
who is not bothered by those facts, at least some of the time, has no heart.
But that doesn't mean the demonstrators are right. On the contrary: anyone 
who thinks that the answer to world poverty is simple outrage against global 
trade has no head - or chooses not to use it. The anti-globalization movement 
already has a remarkable track record of hurting the very people and causes 
it claims to champion.

The most spectacular example was last year's election. You might say that 
because people with no heads indulged their idealism by voting for Ralph 
Nader, people with no hearts are running the world's most powerful nation. 

Even when political action doesn't backfire, when the movement gets what it 
wants, the effects are often startlingly malign. For example, could anything 
be worse than having children work in sweatshops? Alas, yes. In 1993, child 
workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and 
Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries 
employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile 
factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? 
Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the 
displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets - and 
that a significant number were forced into prostitution.

The point is that third-world countries aren't poor because their export 
workers earn low wages; it's the other way around. Because the countries are 
poor, even what look to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost always much 
better than the alternatives: millions of Mexicans are migrating to the north 
of the country to take the low-wage export jobs that outrage opponents of 
NAFTA. And those jobs wouldn't exist if the wages were much higher: the same 
factors that make poor countries poor - low productivity, bad infrastructure, 
general social disorganization - mean that such countries can compete on 
world markets only if they pay wages much lower than those paid in the West.

Of course, opponents of globalization have heard this argument, and they have 
answers. At a conference last week I heard paeans to the superiority of 
traditional rural lifestyles over modern, urban life - a claim that not only 
flies in the face of the clear fact that many peasants flee to urban jobs as 
soon as they can, but that (it seems to me) has a disagreeable element of 
cultural condescension, especially given the overwhelming preponderance of 
white faces in the crowds of demonstrators. (Would you want to live in a 
pre-industrial village?) I also heard claims that rural poverty in the third 
world is mainly the fault of multinational corporations - which is just plain 
wrong, but is a convenient belief if you want to think of globalization as an 
unmitigated evil. 
The most sophisticated answer was that the movement doesn't want to stop 
exports - it just wants better working conditions and higher wages. 
But it's not a serious position. Third-world countries desperately need their 
export industries - they cannot retreat to an imaginary rural Arcadia. They 
can't have those export industries unless they are allowed to sell goods 
produced under conditions that Westerners find appalling, by workers who 
receive very low wages. And that's a fact the anti-globalization activists 
refuse to accept. 

So who are the bad guys? The activists are getting the images they wanted 
from Quebec City: leaders sitting inside their fortified enclosure, with 
thousands of police protecting them from the outraged masses outside. But 
images can deceive. Many of the people inside that chain-link fence are 
sincerely trying to help the world's poor. And the people outside the fence, 
whatever their intentions, are doing their best to make the poor even poorer. 
 




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