Globalization generally refers to the increasing
interaction and integration of the people, businesses and governments of
nations. While it has
social and political consequences, a narrower definition—expansion
of foreign trade and investment—focuses on its economic aspects.
Mention globalization and most Americans think jobs going
overseas (Figure #51a), out-sourcing (Figure #51b), sweatshops, and free
trade agreements like NAFTA. Some
connect it with 80 % of the goods they buy at Wal-Mart coming from
China, others with money borrowed from foreign investors sent to Saudi
Arabia for oil, and still others with haze and particulate air pollution
blowing in from East Asia. But
ethical globalization may stump them!
At a 2003 forum, former president
of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo asked former president of Ireland Mary
Robinson to explain use of this phrase in naming her initiative to
reform globalization. She
replied, "[Globalization] could have many more positive
aspects if it were more ethical... Globalization should work for all the
world's people. It doesn't do that at the moment, but [it could if it]
was more values-led, and we don't say that human rights are the only
values...there are...ILO standards, environmental standards, even arms
Her answer suggests ethical globalization starts with
"Valuing Human Rights" (theme #32).
Given her reference to the International Labour Organization, a
UN agency concerned with promoting decent working conditions, it extends
to include workers' rights—to safe workplaces, to join labor
unions, to expect fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. Anti-globalization critics point to corporations exploiting
workers (sweatshops and child labor), and their moving (or outsourcing)
manufacturing operations to developing countries where workers have few
or no legal rights. Thus
millions of workers —especially women and children—toil long hours
for low wages under dangerous conditions.
Their sweat, misery and sacrifice makes possible the
low prices Western shoppers expect.
Critics charge overseas' corporate investment targets areas where
labor is cheap and environmental regulations weak or non-existent.
Thus air pollution in Asian cities, gauged by particulate and
sulfur oxides levels, is among the world's worst; multinational
corporate activities—logging, mining, oil drilling—are a leading
cause of rainforest destruction; ocean-going ships carrying products
from Asian to American shores burn the world's dirtiest fuels.
Ethical globalization opponents—namely those invested in
"Imperialism"—counter these charges (see Discussion,
theme #22B). They cite an
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study
showing that corporations operating in developing countries pay higher
wages than the national average. And
point to a World Bank report that, after
historically linking high pollution to low to
middle income transitions, optimistically notes "many developing
countries have already turned or are turning the corner in the fight
against pollution at much lower levels of income than rich countries did
in their day."
Mention organizations such as the World Bank, World Trade
Organization, or International Monetary Fund and many anti-globalization
folks wince. They charge
such organizations aid multinational led Western efforts to dominate
developing countries. They
to refer to what they perceive as efforts to spread a
American consumerist lifestyle and culture around the world.
They fear such cultural imperial-ism homogenizes the world—
hastening destruction of traditional customs and unique cultural
Unlike libertarians (theme #50A), those respecting ethical globalization urge corporations to put ethics before profits and take responsibility for human rights, worker rights, and environ-mental problems related to their operations in developing nations. They challenge those concerned about global economies to think less about comparative advantage, free trade, global competitive indices, subsidies, tariffs, balance of trade, and more about what might bring sustainable development to poor countries: appropriate technology, distributive justice, family planning services, microcredit financing (Figure #45c), and a basic human needs approach for the poorest. A few believe a values, not profit, driven globalization could eventually make national boundaries irrelevant: creating a global village of global citizens (theme #37B).
Figure #51a: Offshoring
back to worldview theme #51