Donald Trump has built a campaign around the idea that globalization is bad for the United States. He argues free trade deals that underpin globalization have siphoned away American manufacturing jobs. In the process, it made a core group of elites in Washington D.C. and New York very rich, while leaving the rest of country behind.
Surprisingly enough, Trump is kind of right. Globalization has helped lift the world's poor (who are largely located outside of the US) and the world's rich (the US has a lot of these)—but the global middle class (working-class Americans) have seen next to no benefit.
There are growing bodies of research that suggest globalization is not the cure all that people have suggested. There is real harm that can happen alongside the good.
So perhaps the most fundamental takeaway is that we need to have a more nuanced picture of globalization’s effect on the global poor. Instead of thinking in binary terms, we need to separate out the ways globalization has benefited the poor versus the way it hurts them. Something as complicated as globalization is never going to be just good or just bad. We need to divide the good and the bad, and figure out how to address the latter without eliminating the former.
There are many signs that globalization might be too good to be true. Globalization requires nations to give up some of their sovereign rights to make interdependence work. Not all countries are willing to join their monetary or immigration policies.
The National Review argues that globalization has been a force for good.
But what about this country? The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that past gains from U.S. trade and liberalization of investment range from $9,270 to $16,842 per household. Another study found that that “a 1 percent increase in trade raises real income by 0.5 percent.” Other research finds that the trade flowing from globalization has increased consumer purchasing power for middle-income households by 29 percent. As for the poor, they benefit most from the availability of low-cost goods, seeing as much as a 62 percent increase in purchasing power over what they would have in a world without trade.
Globalization is not only about economics. It's also about freedom.
In the end, though, globalization is not just about economic growth. It is about freedom — the freedom to travel, the freedom to buy and sell, the freedom to work, and the freedom to hire and fire. It treats every person not as a member of some tribe, but as an individual, with the same natural rights as every other person.
At the end of the day, globalization is what we make it to be. It can be harnessed for good or bad.
Globalization is like being overwhelmed by a snow avalanche. You can’t stop it – you can only swim in the snow and hope to stay on top. I would like to make the argument that the US should try a lot harder to swim in the snow and stay on top. We can’t stop globalization but there are many policies and strategies we can use to make it more equitable. We can enforce the trade laws, force the competition to play by the same rules, and stop giving our competitors the tools (technology and R& D) to ultimately win the global war.