Since the beginning of modern history the world has changed significantly due to advancements in communication and transportation technology. Today, for example, the ability to effectively deliver a message to a recipient thousands of miles away using the Internet and other telecommunication networks has had a profound impact on business performance. Similarly, the ease in traveling to desired locations, near and far, by air transport has also had a positive effect on the entrepreneurs capabilities in trade and commerce. Domestically and abroad, this expediency of movement and transaction has become known and termed as Globalization. Globalization has significantly contributed to a high standard of living in the West by providing developed countries with goods that necessitate and promote wealthy lifestyles. Americans, specifically, have been the subject of mass marketing and seemingly over consume goods that other countries desperately need for survival.
The earliest form of globalization existed in the colonial expansion of world powers such as Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Germany. The goals of these nations were to expand into larger areas such as Africa, South America, the United States, Canada, and countless Caribbean Islands in an effort to acquire capital generating resources of land and labor. Many ventures proved successful and facilitated trade routes optimizing the transport of goods creating an effective means of acquiring profit. Essentially this commerce paved the future and fortification of world dominance both financially and militarily. Ultimately, the colonized people who were subjected to relocation, humiliation, death, poverty, and religious missions incurred the largest expense. Consequently, the birth of capitalism developed and has since changed the course of economic history.
The fear of every historian and layman alike is that history tends to repeat itself as a consequence of ignorance and an inability to see past the restraints of profit. Today, as in the time of colonial expansion, ease in trade and commerce established by the World Trade Organization, The World Bank, and the European Union has spawned incredible discrepancies in global distribution. In economics, some would infer that the overall standard of living has increased, and that continuing a similar course of action will ultimately yield healthier, happier and a more educated people. Conversely, evidence has proven that globalization has also spawned mass destruction of non-renewable resources jeopardizing the sustainability of Earths eco-structure. In addition, detrimental effects are occurring on developing countries and their indigenous peoples. These range from controversial labor practices by protected corporations, to the possible elimination of political structures as a result of prevailing economic systems.
Globalization has had an incredible impact on the future sustainability of the earth due to an increase in total world population. Since 1950 the world population has increased from two and a half to six billion people . Each individual generates a pattern of consumption demanding scarce resources allocated by large multi-lateral corporations. Globalization aids the process of allocative and technical efficiency in order to satisfy these wants. Acclaimed economist Hazel Henderson states, ?humans now consume forty percent of all net photosynthesized biomass produced on our planet. This process is extremely destructive to earths natural resources because it forces the depletion of green space and the ecosystems within, promotes destructive resource extraction by mining for items such as coal, precious gems, and gold, and pollutes a countless number of water supplies.
Unfortunately, powerful corporations in control of production perpetuate this resource depletion. Powerful firms have a discretionary ability to decide on what to produce and where to produce it. International laws orchestrated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are implemented to raise the standard of living in struggling countries reinforce this reality. For example, the logging trade has developed into a huge facet of developing countries economic, or lack there of, growth. Katie Sjursen states, Boise Cascade has a plan to send twenty million board feet of tropical hardwood to the United States?The international paper corporation helped push for passage of Mexicos Forest Reform Law, which eases environmental restrictions and provides for privatization of industrial forests. South America has seen the horrible effects of the resulting self-interest of corporations that hinder sustainability and growth.
Beyond South America, similar practices of corporate global destruction impede on other national economies as well. Mining practices of late practically disregard the environment in daily practices such as extracting gold, coal, and precious gems. Katie Sjursen again states, Gold Mining in the Philippines has cut large swaths of destruction in tropical rainforests, and many have charged that it is contaminating water sources. These unethical practices and blatant disregard for the environment are imposing on the basic human physiological needs of people on a global scale. What is more interesting to note are the effects globalization has had on indigenous people and developing and socialist countries as a whole.
The crisis of logging tropical rainforests has reached astronomical heights in areas where tropical wood can be extracted. In South American countries, such as Bolivia, indigenous people are experiencing a cycle of forced economic survival having no choice but to clear-cut their virgin forest to support their families. In the lowlands of Bolivia in South America the Chimanes Indians comprise a large population of illegal loggers. They are forced to break ineffective governing laws of forest conservation to satisfy an international demand. Nathan Williamson, an anthropologist who documents and describes this predicament with professional care states, The Chimanes are self-sufficient in many ways, but they still need to make money. Although the work is hard and the proceeds are meager, illegal logging is the easiest way to increase income. Much of this income goes directly to goods that cannot be bartered, such as school supplies and books for their children. This element of globalization creates a paradox between those that need and those that already have.
Another contradiction lies in the fact that many developed countries supporting the WTO and World Bank establish free trade zones in developing countries. This is seemingly appropriate to stimulate growth and progress, but many of these countries (including the U.S.) do not open their economic system of accepting goods. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a former member of President Clintons Council of Academic Advisors indicates, The Western Countries have pushed poor countries to eliminate trade barriers, but kept their own barriers, preventing developing countries from exporting their [products] depriving them of desperately needed export income. The irony here is ever prevalent and continues a cycle of destructive co-dependency that underdeveloped countries have with developed countries.
Following the example set forth of an increasing hypocrisy between developed and underdeveloped countries, it is extremely interesting to recognize the opinions of socialist countries that have no free trade zones. Perhaps the most fascinating example of the effects of globalization on socialist countries is Cuba. In the late 1950s the U.S., under President John F. Kennedy, implemented a trade embargo in response to Fidel Castros alliance with the Soviet Bloc. This embargo essentially stopped the import and export exchange of Cuban and American goods while espousing travel between countries. Aside from these policies based on American trade, Cuba still remains a communist country that doesnt participate in the global free market. Castros position on globalization reflects the gradual economic destruction Cuba has incurred in the past forty years. He states for all similar countries, There are countries enduring such poverty and unemployment that they have had to establish dozens of free-trade zones. It is this, or not having even free-trade zone factories and jobs with certain salaries, even if these amount to only five percent or less of the salaries those factories have to pay in the countries they come from. Essentially Castro indicates the plight and self-defeat of accepting free-trade zones encouraged by globalization because labor is so inexpensive, thus resulting in an unequal distribution of income. Castro believes that participating in globalization is ultimately detrimental to the sustainability of the earth and her inhabitants.
Globalization has also spawned extreme discrepancies in labor practices through corporations that violate basic human rights. Often, in an underdeveloped country the only solidarity workers have is their common purpose. Corporations have grown incredibly alert to these occurrences and work extremely hard to make sure that union oriented programs cannot be conducted. If indeed workers proved successful in unionizing, than the potential for a proletariat uprising would be eminent; shifting power from the bourgeoisie business owners. Activists Kimberly Elliot and Richard Freeman indicate, At the Gaps Mandarin supplier in El Salvador, the struggle began when management fired union organizers to prevent workers from forming a union. This unfortunate occurrence signifies the on-going struggle of workers in underdeveloped countries due to the accepted global practices of large corporations such as Gap Clothing. Because of the cheap labor and lack of strong legal restrictions, sweatshops are an intricate part of underdeveloped countries economies. Again the activists state, The vast majority of sweatshops are located in underdeveloped countries. In 2000, 85 percent of US consumption of foot wear and more than 50 percent of apparel was imported. This clearly indicates that most global clothing corporations manufacture goods in their own self-interest, disregarding indigenous people.
Aside from these blatant violations of human rights, corporations have additionally employed children as laborers. These children are forced into work because their socio-economic status is so low that families have come to depend on their income as a means of survival. This perpetuated cycle is occurring as generations of children are missing their opportunity for an education. Fidel Castro espousing these practices states, The low income of the third world countries population and the high percentage of households depending on only one income are one of the main reasons why child labor is higher in the underdeveloped world than elsewhere. Fidel Castro reinforces the idea that wages are not nearly enough to sustain a prosperous and meaningful life in the third world.
The final piece of globalization that is detrimental to the world at large is the growing influence on political decisions that world economics asserts. Today, foreign policy is usually directed by the amount of monetary gain that can be attained by engaging in diplomacy. Many African states have been the product of this methodical cost-benefit strategy implemented by economically developed nations. US foreign policy is heavily dependent on this system, and is motivated to prevent any possible losses that may be incurred do to poor policy objectives. Attached is a table reflecting the IMF investment in African states between 1982-1994. It is more than clear that the states with the highest investment are those that are fairing better than states that are currently in chaos. This proves that economic investments are carried out on the basis of the return on investment. Ultimately, this portrays the importance of economics over politics, indicating the unfortunate change of focus in globalization. Conversely, it is speculated that the political system of human representation will eventually cease to be, and the new direction will be based upon the interest of the global economy. Acclaimed economist Robert Gilpin states, For critics of globalization, victory of the market means the end of the state as the protector of the economically weak against the economically strong, and the supremacy of ruthless market forces and those who control such forces. Consequently, the rich become wealthier and the poor become even more desolate.
In conclusion, globalization is a force that cannot be reckoned with. It is with us in every aspect of our lives ranging from clothing, food, automobiles, and any other good we have come to depend on. In the end, the person who produces the goods by working countless hours receives a marginal amount of the actual profit derived by the corporation. The detrimental aspects of globalization include questions of the sustainability of the Earths environment, the effects on indigenous people and developing countries, and whether or not the economic forces contributing to this global economy will ultimately replace political structures that reflect individual choice. It is very difficult to say whether or not we will benefit from globalization in the long-term. Clearly one goal remains, this is assuring that human society as a whole learns to chose consciences decisions when making consumer purchases; and more importantly, elected officials change their priorities to promote the welfare of all of humanity and its global environment.