I have two items for my write-up today on Edward Gresser's 2007 book, Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Global Economy.
When I was an undergraduate at DePauw University, I took a Winter-Term
course on NAFTA. On the last day of class, our professor unloaded on us
a bunch of depressing statistics about global poverty and disparity in
wealth, and he said that he felt that he would be negligent as a teacher
if he did not share this information with us. The professor then
remarked that there are people who argue that globalization is a
solution to these problems. He did not comment on whether or not he
agreed with that proposition, but I had my doubts that he did.
depressing to learn about the evils of the world, and yet it is
necessary. I'm not entirely sure what to do in response to racism or
global poverty, but it's good for me to be aware of these problems so
that I'm at least receptive to doing something.
to Gresser's book. Gresser is someone who actually presents
globalization as a solution to global poverty. On page 109, he states
"Life is also better in the poor world, though too
few recognize it. With obvious and painful exceptions----starving North
Korea, AIDS-afflicted southern Africa, the violent Middle
East----incomes are rising, life expectancy growing, and conflicts
fading throughout the developing world. A Bangladeshi girl, in 1980
could expect 48 years of life; her daughter, born this year, has 63.
The World Health Organization finds infant mortality down by two thirds,
from fifteen doomed babies to five in every hundred, between 1955 and
2000. Small and technical decisions in big rich countries change lives
for the better in poor and desperate places. Contrary to Congressman
Frank's fear, child labor is fading: the International Labor
Organization, which counted 174 million children working in hazardous
conditions in the late 1990s, now finds only 111 million and suggests
that Latin America may soon join the rich world as largely free from
child labor altogether."
This reminds me of a couple of things.
First of all, Gresser's comments on child labor made me think of
something that Ayn Rand said, when she was discussing the ills of
nineteenth century American capitalism: long hours, low wages, child
labor, etc. Ayn Rand essentially argued that capitalism is pretty rough
in its early stages, but once it becomes successful in producing more
goods and in creating a decent standard of living, its rough elements
tend to go away. Second, I thought of George Obama's (brother of
Barack) statement to Dinesh D'Souza in 2016 that colonialism actually benefited Kenya, since it industrialized the country (see here).
Could free trade be doing the same thing to the developing world:
bringing it prosperity and capital, and thereby elevating its standard
There are people who argue that the Third World is
actually worse off as a result of globalization----that globalization
takes people's land, which they used to grow their crops, and makes them
dependent on corporations for their survival. Moreover, regarding
colonialism and capitalism, there are stories about how foreign economic
interests came into certain countries, plundered their resources, and
left their inhabitants in poverty.
2. Is our movement towards
free trade responsible for the decline of labor unions in the United
States? Gresser argues that this is not necessarily the case, as he
notes that unions have declined in construction and retail, jobs that
lack foreign competition. Gresser attributes the decline of unions to
the loss of union appeal. I have two questions. First of all, why
would unions lose their appeal to workers? Wouldn't workers want good
wages and benefits, which unions presumably provide? (UPDATE: On page 205, Gresser explains his point about unions losing
their appeal. He says that many workers nowadays don't plan to stay at
their jobs for a long period of time, but they are there primarily to
build their resume, and they are probably planning to go back to school
or look for a better job. Consequently, a union system of
seniority----which presupposes that a worker will stay at the same
company for a long time----does not appeal to them, and they are likely
to see union dues as a burden.) Second, could
illegal immigration have anything to do with the decline of
unions----American workers will accept a non-union job because they need
it, and they do not want the employer to give the job to an illegal
immigrant, who would work for less pay and no benefits? Does illegal
immigration create a situation in which companies don't need unions to
attract good workers, since they can hire illegal immigrants?