Monday, May 14, 2007

Globalization haters out of tune with the world's poor.

Every so often some international conference dealing with world trade and issues revolving around globalization takes place. Without fail the organized forces of the anti-globalization movement appear outside the gates. They whine, they protest, they frequently riot and attack. If you ask them they’ll tell you that what they do is justified because they represent the world’s poor.

What is clear is that rarely are the protesters themselves poor. These protesters tend to come from wealthy nations and tend to have been born in families that are more economically advantaged than the people on who’s behalf they pretend to speak. Critics of the anti-globalists have long contended that they don’t represent the poor at all but are more in tune with politically fashionable views among the more wealthy of the world. Now an on-going poll of world opinion seems to back this up.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed some 66,000 people in 44 nations. Generally the results have been met with much interest and little anger. But the anti-globalization movement itself is rather unhappy with the results and with good reason.

The poorest nations have populations more supportive of globalization than do the wealthiest nations. The survey noted that: “Only one-in-ten Americans and Canadians (10%, 11%) characterize globalization as a very good thing, and fewer Europeans agree. By comparison, nearly six-in-ten in Nigeria (58%), and more than four-in-ten in Kenya (46%), Uganda (44%) and South Africa (41%) see globalization as a very good thing.” Only Jordan has a majority that says globalization is bad.

It is true that in all 44 nations a majority of the people said globalization is either “somewhat good” or “very good”. But those who see globalization as “very good” are significantly more likely to come from poorer nations.

Even when it comes to contentious “cultural” issues majorities, especially among the young, see globalization as good. And most agree that they have a better selections of food and medicine as a result. When anti-globalization forces target “fast food” restaurants like McDonald’s for their ire it again appears they reflect the values of the world’s economic elites. German’s, by a six-to-one margin, think that fast food has a negative effect on their life. In Canada and the United States significant margins share the German view. But more than seven out of ten, in the Philippines, Vietnam and China, give fast food a thumb’s up.

“Commercialism” and “consumerism” are further favorite targets of the anti globalist. And while 63% of the French say both are threats to their culture the poorest countries, on a whole, don’t see it that way. The survey reports that this criticism is not prevalent “in the Middle East/Conflict Area. Majorities in Lebanon (64%), Uzbekistan (57%) and Jordan (54%) say commercialism is no threat to their culture. Pluralities in Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan agree.” In Vietnam 66% say commercialism doesn’t threaten their culture. In Nigeria its 65% and in Angola its 56%.
Multinational corporations are another favorite target of the anti-globalist. Again this is at odds with the views of the world’s poor. The survey reports: “In 33 out of 43 countries in which the question was asked, majorities think that foreign corporations have a generally positive influence on their countries. Majorities in every African country surveyed say major foreign companies have a good influence.” The survey also notes that: “Dislike of foreign firms is mostly limited to people in the major advanced economies of Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada.” Once again anti-globalist attitudes are more in tune with those of the wealthy and well-off. For instance 93% of the Vietnamese and 78% of South Africans view multinationals favourably while only half of Americans and half the French do so. What is particularly ironic is that in every single nation surveyed multinationals have more favourable support than do the anti-globalists themselves.

Support for international markets tends to indicate support for domestic economic freedom as well. A majority in 33 of the nations surveyed agreed that people are better off with free markets. The highest level of support was found among the residents of Vietnam, ostensibly a socialist state, where 95% agreed. And while the United States is often seen as being the most “free market” country in terms of ideological support the fact is that the free market has higher levels of support in Lebanon, Vietnam, South Korea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa.
The anti-globalists have denounced global capitalism and domestic free markets. They claim to do so on behalf of the world’s poor. But it appears that globally most people disagree with them—most espeically the poor themselves.

Photo: The photo is from a free trade demonstration held at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development. The poor people of South Africa marched demanding freedom to trade. Only a few of us, who were delegates to that conference, joined the poor on their march (I was about half way back in this crowd). Most the delegates never strayed from the luxury hotels and restaurants though they loudly claimed they were speaking for the poor. What they actually meant was they speak for the poor because the poor are too stupid to speak out for themselves properly and don't hold the "right" views as the elite at the conference see fit.

SOURCE: A source for this information has been requested. The information in question was found in this report: Views of a Changing World.

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