Good vs. bad globalization

As I traveled around Europe, I saw globalization in action, and made the following observations.

Being able to drive through various countries without needing to go through customs checks at the borders was wonderful. Unencumbered travel is a great experience.

The preservation of local or national cultures is of the utmost importance as people from various countries mingle more freely. Dominant cultures end up dominating, and that’s not a good thing. If I switched through various radio stations in Austria or Romania, I seldom heard German music, and even less often did I hear local music, like traditional Tirolean songs. Instead, I heard the latest hits from the US and the UK. I really don’t care to hear the same music I hear at home when I travel. I’d rather be immersed in the culture of the country I’m visiting, but that’s become quite rare nowadays.

Related to the point made above, the people who win from globalization preserve their local culture, because it not only enriches them, but it’s also a bankable practice when it comes to tourism. Clean, beautiful cities, where the old building were preserved and renovated, not torn down, and friendly local people are what tourists want to see.

The ability to export and import goods freely is great. It’s good for the local economies to have the potential of greater distribution. By the same token, it’s horribly bad when companies and factories move to areas where it’s cheaper to operate. Local economies, cities and people suffer so much when that happens. Just look at what’s going on in the US. I can see the same thing happening in certain cities in Romania. Just a decade or so ago, people used to have jobs and work in local factories or shops, and now they’ve all been sold or moved, and those same people, tied to those cities through their families and houses, are now scraping the ground to get by. I don’t know how they do it. It must be incredibly tough and frustrating.

Related to the point made above about not companies staying put and not moving, why do you think the US economy is hurting so badly now? It’s because it has become based on services and virtual goods like complicated and unnecessary financial speculation, not hard goods. Other than farming products, we make very little in the US these days. Most of the US products (and most of the world’s products for that matter) get made in China. Is it any surprise to see that China’s economy is booming?

Remember that countries have two ways to exert their influence in the world: (1) soft power, which refers to economic and cultural power, and (2) hard power, which refers to military force. US’ soft power has been waning in recent years, through its own faulty policies, and so the only way left for it to retain its dominance is to increase its hard power. The problem is that exerting hard power makes the soft power diminish even more and it also breeds enemies, which makes it even harder to retain dominance in the long run. Soft power preservation is the best long-term foreign policy a country could have, and the US has failed at it.

EU taxes are a heavy burden to bear. The VAT (Value Added Tax) is around 20%. That’s crazy. Not only does that make everything more expensive, but the markups are also higher. This means you’ll sometimes find that the same product, like a laptop or a camera, is up to 50% more expensive in Europe. That doesn’t make sense to me, particularly when salaries in so many Eastern European countries are unbelievably lower than in Western European countries, yet the prices are just as high.

In globalized economies, there’s greater potential to encourage correct or responsible behavior by standardizing business or agricultural practices. Vice versa, there’s greater potential to mess it all up as well, but let’s try to stay positive here. I liked what I saw in Europe when it came to land care and the preservation of forests. I also liked seeing entire fields filled with wind turbines, which generate electricity with zero pollution. I also liked seeing solar panels on the roofs of many, many houses in the countryside. I like the EU’s anti-corruption efforts, and I like the way they encourage good infrastructure through grants and loans to member countries.

When standards are put in place, there’s the potential to go overboard with rules and regulations. While the intentions are good, if you make it too onerous for an individual or a small business to compete or participate in the marketplace, you are effectively favoring large corporations and driving out the small guys. I see this happening with farming regulations in Europe. People that used to own herds of sheep and cows have now been forced to sell them or become part of large farming cooperatives, because they couldn’t afford to keep up with all the rules. Farmers operate on thin margins and big risks, and when you introduce extra costs, you are in effect killing them.

It would be a horrible shame to drive out all the small guys and let large corporations handle all of the marketplace. For one thing, you are killing the spirit of passionate people that love what they’re doing, and for another, you’re destroying a way of life that has served us well for thousands of years.

I do hope the EU and the US do their part to keep small farmers alive and well, while encouraging the production of food through responsible, renewable and healthy practices, free of genetic manipulation and unnecessary hormonal, pesticide and antibiotic treatments.


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