Thursday, August 09, 2007

Globalization Galore

Tibor R. Machan

Globalization is but the recognition that some elements of human life are universal. Multiculturalism recognizes, in contrast, that many elements of human life are diverse, even highly individual. There is no way to escape this, given human nature. We have much in common among us but we also differ in innumerable respects. There are also innumerable features shared by just some people, not others, such as members of ethnic groups, religions, practitioners of the various arts, and so forth.

The debate about globalization concern what it is that can reasonably be expected to be universalized, what cannot be subject to universalization. In particular, are certain economic principles such that human beings everywhere and at any time ought to be observant of them?

Those supporting economic globalization hold, as I do, that some principles of economics are appropriate for any human community simply because it is a human community. Thus, for example, any human community’s legal infrastructure needs to protect the right to private property, the right to free trade, the right to freedom of contract, etc. Which, in plain language, means that everywhere people ought to be free to obtain and hold valued items; they ought to be able to exchange these voluntarily among one another, and they ought to be free to come to terms of trade without being coerced to accept ones with which they disagree. The idea is, of course, that such economic principles are suitable or fitting for human community life because of human nature itself, never mind variations in culture, religion, art, and so forth.

Now this kind of universalization is well known in many other areas of human life. Medicine, science, fitness, dealing with emergencies, and judging athletic prowess all approximate a kind of globalization. There is no Pakistani medicine versus Indian medicine, even if some practices are more prevalent in one of the countries than in the other; there is no Afghan chemistry versus Canadian chemistry; at events such as Wimbledon or the Olympics the measure of success is universal, independent of the place from which an athlete hails, even if the uniforms and hair styles different among them. Cuisine is highly diverse, yet the need for balanced nourishment is universal. Fitness, too, tends to be something all people require, albeit they different how they will obtain it—through hiking, jogging, attending gym sessions or yoga.

Not that all this is agreed to by everyone, quite the contrary. Some people insist that different cultures may embrace different economic principles, even if these are in violation of the principles of a free market. Some think that Cuba is fine practicing socialism, as may be North Korea or Venezuela. The argument here is about whether such a system does or does not violate basic principles of human community life and, of course, defenders of what has come to be called economic globalization argue that such systems as socialism, communism, fascism and the like do in fact violate such basic principles. Actually, most socialists or communists, etc., also defend globalization of their own principles of economic organization. Only some claim that capitalism is sound for one human community, while socialism for another, except for strategic purposes.

I was traveling in places this summer where I could not say I was on familiar terrain. Indeed, the ways people dressed, played, sang, and ate were utterly different from what I am used to living in Southern California. Yet, when some emergency occurred in, say, Baku, Azerbaijan, or Tbilisi, Georgia, the common means of warning those nearby was, of course, the piercing siren! Once again, globalization is in evidence and no one could reasonably object.

In the area of economic globalization the problem isn’t really globalization as such but what are the principles of economic life that are to be global in the first place. For those of us who insist that freedom is a necessary condition of human community life, that coercion must be excluded from human relationships, the principles of the free market system are the natural candidates for globalization. We consider those who object to this advocates of coercive human relationships and find that to be seriously misguided. And, we think, for eminently good reasons.

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