From my previous blog entries, you might suspect that I'm "anti-globalization." But I'm not. I'm just anti-bad globalization. I do my best not to fall into a knee-jerk "campesinos good, corporations bad" school of thinking. I believe that the rich don't necessarily get rich at the expense of the poor. (As conservatives might say, "It's not a zero-sum game.") If implemented thoughtfully and compassionately, globalization could be the salvation of the developing world. Progress can include or exclude the poor...and, as wealthy people who reap the benefits of globalization, we have an obligation to be aware of that.
As a businessman who manufactures some of my travel bags in South Asia, I'm keenly aware that globalization can be either a force for good or a force for harm. I have struggled with and understand the inevitability and moral challenge of it — there's simply no way to produce a bag that will sell without finding the least expensive combination of quality, labor and materials. I contribute to globalization only because I'm confident that the people who stitch and sew my bags are treated well and paid appropriately. They work for a fraction of the cost of an American, they appreciate the employment, and American consumers want the cheap prices. If I believed that the factory conditions were bad for that community or for its workers, I'd take my business elsewhere. To ensure this, I fly one of my staff to the factory for a periodic re-evaluation. It's a carefully weighed decision that I make with my humanitarian principles (and with the plight of people I met in El Salvador) in mind.
Even if the rudiments of globalization didn't make people's eyes glaze over, it's human nature not to want to know how our affluence impacts others. No comfortable American enjoys being told how her cat is outbidding some hungry child just south of the border, how his investments may be contributing to the destruction of the environment, how the weaponry we sell and profit from is really being used, or how — if you really knew its story — there's blood on your banana. Privilege brings with it the luxurious option of obliviousness. Most Americans don't understand or particularly care about the impact of a new IMF regulation on a person who sews clothing in Honduras or plants coffee beans in Nicaragua. Here in the rich world, the choice is ours: awareness and concern, or ignorance and bliss.
About This Entry
You are reading "Globalization: Get It Right", an entry posted on 09 October 2009 by Rick Steves.