Monopoly Globalization

Cay Hehner, Ph.D.

[Reprinted from the Henry George News, Vol.71, Issue 1, January-April, 2005]

There are many ways in which one may look at the phenomenon of globalization. One widely held meaning takes it to be synonymous with the internationalization of trade. Opposed to that sense of globalization we find mainly "local heroes" who are convinced that only grass-roots democracy and local action can prevent and guard the world against the ills and fall-out effects of a world commercialization gone ballistic! Another sense of globalization would be the forced exportation of a particular frame-of-mind -- a national frame-of-mind that is.

Globalization has apparently become the one all-overriding economic concern in many countries and many parts of the world. The issue is so burningly predominant that it splits individuals of the same peer groups, the same political persuasion, the same social outlook, and even the same cultural and economic background -- not to mention lovers, spouses, families, or brethren in the spirit! Fortunately for us, Henry George, in his ground- breaking Protection or Free Trade left us a textbook, albeit written in 1886, that discusses the question at length and leaves nothing to be desired as to how this issue needs to be resolved by sober-minded and thoughtful people. There is no argument in the book for free trade and against protectionism or vice versa that cannot be directly applied to the intensely controversial issues of globalization.

The main questions we need to ask ourselves with regards to globalization are the following: Globalization, exactly for whom is it? Is globalization meant for raw materials profiteers and land monopolists? Or is it meant for humankind as a whole, that is you and me in other words? Is it for the "chosen few" who managed to corner the real estate market worldwide and live as land rentiers "happily ever after"? Or is it for John and Jane Doe who do work for a living? A careful and conservative estimate of the second category -- that is those who work for a living -- would put their number at around 6 billion of the 6 billion plus passengers of our spaceship earth -- a term coined by Henry George by the way -- and the first category -- the land rentiers -- could be estimated as the remaining or "plus" people.

The next questions we need to ask ourselves are: What exactly is globalization? Is globalization equal to Americanization as has frequently and proudly been suggested? After all the US won the Cold War after having won World War I and World War II and it seems only to be appropriate that the rest of the world "catches on" to us and our so apparently, doubtlessly, and eminently American Way of Life!

Again: Who is doing the globalizing, the Americanizing? Who is serving as the "template" for the proud social status "blueprint" of roughly 300 million Americans? Not the working poor, or the unemployed or the homeless who are crowding our cities in ever more embarrassing numbers too embarrassing to be overlooked? Not the hard-working middle class who has not seen a wages and salaries increase, in terms of real purchasing power, in 30 years and who is being squeezed between a rock and a hard place, or the proverbial frying pan and the fire in trying to make ends meet, send kids to college which really even the more well to do can't afford anymore nowadays, meet exploding health care costs, and the depletion of retirement funds -- after all, remember? the baby boomers have just retired.

Or is it just again a globalization meaning Americanization of the "plus" Americans, the fortunate Fortune 500 crowd, the "beautiful people" who so wonderfully and glamorously make up the Hollywood gossip magazines and glitterati catwalks?

This latter question definitely does not seem to be the case, otherwise the world would definitely and "globally" look different! Or are we, in fact, exporting our homeless, our underprivileged, our "the-devil-may-take-the-hindmost", our working poor? 'The poor shall always be with us' sayeth the Scripture, it seems to be somewhat redundant to want to take all the trouble to export them, doesn't it? Who wants more poverty, more poor? And we have to look at the context: Jesus Christ does not say that he sanctions or approves of the poor being what they are or remaining in their wretched condition! Far from it! He is admonishing his disciples and through them the rest of mankind who cares to listen to him to apply his teachings!

What about the outsourcing of our jobs overseas and what about glutting the domestic market with way- below minimum wage cheap-labor products from China delivered to our doorstep with ever increasing speed and tonnage? Aren't we exporting their poverty to the land of the free and home of the brave? Why China? Surely not to reward it for their human rights record: the most dismal one with respect to the Tibetan genocide since the Nazis and the Stalinists and some developing world dictatorships.

Now, let's make no mistake: This is not about discriminating against any country or any ethnicity, not at all. This is about distinguishing between economic policies that work for all and honor the human dignity of all involved in the economic process and those who don't, that's all.

It is enlightening to read Henry George's early pre-Progress and Poverty writings to see how prescient a thinker and economist he was! For the term globalization to make sense, Georgist sense that is, the question of natural resources management and the allocation of equal opportunities will have to be determined! It makes no sense to join the poorest countries in their race to the bottom or import the most dismal human rights violations of the 21st Century! That cannot be the solution of this truly global issue. In ascertaining accessibility of natural opportunity for everyone on the contrary minimum wages shall be brought up not in an arbitrary manner, but in accordance with natural law, general wealth may be increased, and poverty levels will be driven down. It is hence not a monopoly globalization that we seek or a globalization of the rentier class of the fortunate few but an equal natural- opportunities globalization for you and me and everyone. And we might as well start now!

If everyone in the world were to adopt the energy wastage concomitant and inherent in the American Way of Life our planet would long have been depleted and, irony of fate, the children and grandchildren of the happy few conspicuous consumers would certainly go to down with us as the rest of the world population. George's Free Trade paradigm provides a way out of that deadly dilemma.

Remember the Tower of Babel? Remember these dire and apocalyptic visions in the Scriptures? Which as Joseph Campbell has told us by the way are much more rampant and inherent in all the latter-day texts of all the great world religions and world spiritual traditions. What happened in Babel? The very selfsame people who just had no problem communicating with each other suddenly spoke .in many tongues. (that is many languages) and they couldn't understand each other any more? Does that remind you of something? That's not like our world today, no way! There have literally been wars which got started with hundred thousands if not millions of people getting killed just because a translator made a mistake -- that is no joke, unfortunately.

How many conflicts and killings are caused by misunderstandings? One culture not understanding another. One people discriminating against another, literally for no other reason but that they don't speak the same language. Now, what is one of the side effects of globalization? Anybody who wants to do anything, go anywhere, make any experience, or engage in any kind of exchange, he or she most likely has to learn English? That doesn't mean that other languages should not be cherished and cultivated, far from it! It just means English, inadvertently and by default, is a left-over from the British colonialism and now swimming in the wake of the US superpower status. It has become a kind of world lingua franca. Something like a general currency among the languages, with Spanish, French, Hindi, and Cantonese running a close second. This, in effect, reverses the language confusion of Babylonian times. No globalization in any of its many senses would be possible without a linguistic backdrop to capitalize upon the global market-place of ideas and commodity items.

The sea-monsters and land- monsters, the behemoths and leviathans with which the Scriptures were scaring the living daylights out of all of us. Where are they now? Perhaps they have changed shape. Perhaps the serpent against which we are being warned has taken the shape of everyone who is dependent on oil. Perhaps the dragons we are up against now a days are the dragons of corporate greed and monopoly? In his Professor Challenger short story The Earth Screams, Conan Doyle relates the surrealistic fallout engendered by a drilling too deep below the crust of the earth. Sound familiar? In Crimes against Nature the environment advocate Robert Kennedy Jr. makes a number of startling statements: Show me a polluter and I show you a subsidy! Large corporations are not interested in competition, they are interested in steady profits, so, they are interested in eliminating it. Capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. .The free-market system is great we should try it sometimes.. Not environmentalism but an implementation of a true free market is mandatory. We are stealing the land from our children!

Hernando de Soto in his Mystery of Capital states a number of facts and makes inferences which are important for any discussion on globalization. De Soto's economic philosophy has been called: A Poor Man's Guide to Capitalism. Statements relevant to us are:

Only 25 of the 200 countries of the earth are able to capitalize their Capitalism.

Lester Thurow remarked that Capitalism would have almost vanished from the face of the earth if World War II had had a different outcome. Only the US and Great Britain had upheld the torch of the free- enterprise system. The former Communist countries failed to successfully transfer their economies. Capitalism never really worked in Latin America. Because in both the former Soviet block and in the Latin American countries: "strong underground economies, glaring inequality, pervasive mafias, political instability, capital flight, and flagrant disregard of the law" prevail.

Now what is the reason for this mess? Property is unstable in Latin America and in most other countries of the world except what is somewhat incongruously and paradoxically called the West. Secure property rights for every one and we shall have a Brave New World indeed! Is that what George meant by equal access to natural opportunities? Is that what he meant by Free Trade? Does his single-tax paradigm protect or demolish private property?

To sum up: Is Globalization good or bad? Rephrase that: What would make globalization desirable, and what would make it undesirable? If Kennedy is right: How can we steal back the land for our children? How can the Leviathan, that is unfortunately not just proverbial, be slain? How can the Greater Leviathan be domesticated to all of our common weal? Is Hernando DeSoto on the right track when he maintains that global poverty would be abolished if only all the poor and downtrodden of the earth could capitalize the value of their land and natural resources? What actually lies at the root of our ecological devastation and global economic impoverishment but profits the .happy few plus. people? In spending nearly four decades working with the theories of so-called worldly philosophers, and in a wider sense on the wise men's answers to the question of right livelihood, I have never come across anyone who managed to get the whole picture. and factor in the main elements land, labor, capital, nature and spirit and to harmonize them as well as Henry George did. After all the other answers have failed, it's time to try his.