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Open Sandals, Closed Minds?
Published on Tuesday, May 7, 2002 in the Cape Cod Times
Open Sandals, Closed Minds?
by Sean Gonsalves
 

One columnist described them as kids with "open-toe sandals and closed minds." And commentators from Thomas Sowell to Thomas Friedman to Paul Krugman seem to never tire of pointing out the "economic illiteracy" of the pro-democracy anti-globalization protesters for their views concerning the "free-trade" and development policies of such economic institutions as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Even the "liberal" media couldn't resist venting its corporate spleen on the matter. In the days following the WTO protests in Seattle, The Boston Globe editorialized that those who took to the streets calling for economic justice were "senseless in Seattle."

Now, if your only source of information was the slanted coverage of the "free" press, you'd think the protesters were nothing but a bunch of violence-prone, middle-class "anarchist" Birkenstock-wearing, neo-hippies with nothing better to do than destroy the property of good, clean, hard-working small business owners.

The condescending cacophony denouncing protesters among both pundits and politicians is based on the alleged fact - really an article of faith - that globalization is not only the "wave of the future" (as if the future were pre-determined), but a boon for the world's poor.

Globalization is poverty's panacea and therefore the protesters and their sympathizers are enemies of freedom, the "experts" says. Brings to mind Henry Kissinger's candid conception of who can be considered an expert in our society. He defined an expert as someone skilled in articulating the "consensus...of his constituency" - the people with power; those who "have a vested interest in the commonly held opinions."

As the expert-aspiring columnist that I am, I'd like to do my part in heaping disdain upon critics of globalization, adding the following people and organizations to the list of those with "open-toe sandals and closed minds."

The CIA tops the list. In the agency's "senseless" report, "Global Trends 2015", the reader is told: "The rising tide of the global economy will create many economic winners, but it will not lift all boats...(It will) spawn conflicts at home and abroad, ensuring an even wider gap between regional winners and losers than exists today... .

"Regions, countries, and groups feeling left behind will...foster political, ethnic, ideological, and religious extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it."

Echoing the "clueless" protesters, the World Bank's own researchers found that "globalization appears to increase poverty and inequality... . The costs of adjusting to greater openness are borne exclusively by the poor, regardless of how long the adjustment takes" (The Simultaneous Evolution of Growth and Inequality, 1999).

Sounding like a know-nothing protester, William Easterly, a World Bank senior adviser wrote: "Consider the facts and it soon becomes evident that the $1,000 billion spent on aid since the 1960s with the efforts of advisors, foreign aid givers, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have failed to attain the desired results... . It is little wonder that protesters have demonstrated so vehemently against the international organizations."

And according to the Institute of Policy Studies, "The 1999 sales of each of the top five corporations (General Motors, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, and Daimler Chrysler) are bigger than the GDPs of 182 countries. The top 200 corporations' sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25 percent to 27.5 percent of world GDP."

The United Nations 1999 Human Development Report tells us that the assets of the world's three richest people are greater than the combined GDP of the 48 least developed countries and that the 475 billionaires among us are worth more than the combined incomes of the poorest 50 percent of the world's people."

And lastly, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports: "Forty-one U.S. companies not only paid no federal income taxes, but actually received money back from the federal government in at least one year from 1996 to 1998 (under the "liberal" Clinton administration). In those tax-free years, the 41 companies reported a total of $25.8 billion in pretax U.S. profits."

Because opinion leaders have more important things to focus on, you'll have to read all about these "expert" thoughts on the effects of globalization, plus learn about numerous case examples illustrating the damage caused by unfettered globalization in the International Forum on Globalization's recently published report, "Does Globalization Help the Poor?" (www.ifg.org)

What does it mean when some of the "experts" are finally conceding that the protesters have a valid point?

I don't know, but the more important question is: When are pundits and politicians going to stop making head-in-the-sand arguments that uncritically cheers globalization?

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columnist. He can be reached via email: sgonsalves@capecodonline.com

Copyright © 2002 Cape Cod Times

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