Capital Ideas

A look at the poverty of some contending economic fundamentalisms.

Issue: Fall 2002

Douglas Irwin, The Case for Free Trade (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), 288 pp., $27.95.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002), 192 pp., $24.95.

George Soros, On Globalization (New York: Public Affairs, 2002), 160 pp., $20.

Globalization has become a focus of widespread but on the whole quite inchoate discontent. As other writers in these pages have pointed out, it is not easy to characterize the opposition to the international mobility of factors of production in simple political or social terms. Some of that opposition comes from a leftist alliance of ecologists, anti-capitalists and elite third worlders who worry that globalization is impoverishing workers in already poor countries. Some of it comes from labor unions in rich countries concerned that unfair competition is hurting their members. Still other opposition comes from what might traditionally be conceived as the Right, but again from very diverse sources: from racists who see immigration as a threat to an idealized view of a homogenous national community, and from small businessmen who see competitive pressures eroding their advantages. Some of these opponents dislike the idea of anything that moves across long distances; but most protesters claim to want a different and better globalization.

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