Poverty Reading List

In Defense of Globalization book review

In Defense of Globalization

by Jagdish Bhagwati

Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist specializing in international trade and a professor at Columbia University, has written a very indepth book arguing that economic globalization overall has (and is having) a tremendous positive impact on the poor. He looks closely at the many critiques and perceptions of globalization and provides responses to many of them.

He notes the ironic fact that “anti-globalization sentiments are more prevalent in the rich countries of the North, while pluralities of policy makers and the public in the poor countries of the South see globalization instead as a positive force.” (p.8)

In commenting on anti-capital sentiments he notes, “I often wonder … how many of the young skeptics of capitalism are aware that socialist planning in countries such as India, by replacing markets systemwide with bureaucratically determined rations of goods and services, worsened rather than improved unequal access because socialism meant queues that the well-connected and the well-endowed could jump, whereas markets allowed a larger number to make it to the check-out counter.” (p.15) He notes that anti-capitalism, anti-corporation and anti-Americanism attitudes (for various different reasons) have have unfortunately turned into anti-globalization rhetoric.

Some people argue that Bhagwati is a free-market-with-no-limits zealot. I found Bhagwati to be very balanced in this book. He owns his own bias to taking a macroeconomic viewpoint while showing sensibilities for how there are impacts on a microeconomic level. He critiques the ultra-liberal and ultra-isolationist international trade viewpoints. He also provides many critiques of globalization practices and provides suggestions about how to reduce ill-effects, abuses and impact on the displaced. For instance, he argues for gradualism in changing short-term capital restrictions in order for the developing nations’ financial institutions to mature and prevent another Asian-type financial crisis.

Topics he tackles include:

  • Poverty: Enhanced or Diminished?
  • Child Labor: Increased or Reduced?
  • Women: Harmed of Helped?
  • Democracy at Bay?
  • Culture Imperiled or Enriched?
  • Wages and Labor Standards at Stake?
  • Environment in Peril?
  • Corporations: Predatory or Beneficial?

I found the last section of the book on how to improve governance to make globalization work better a bit dry and lacking in pragmatism … but this is a hard topic with much political complexity.

So, overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get smarter about globalization benefits, problems and how to drive the benefits of globalization to more equal distribution.

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