The most recent Schumpeter column in The Economist discussed a recent book: World 3.0: global prosperity and how to achieve it. The column's headline is: The case against globaloney: at last some sense on globalisation, which gives the reader a sense of where the argument is going. It begins:
GEOFFREY CROWTHER, editor of The Economist from 1938 to 1956, used to advise young journalists to “simplify, then exaggerate”. He might have changed his advice if he had lived to witness the current debate on globalisation. There is a lively discussion about whether it is good or bad. But everybody seems to agree that globalisation is a fait accompli: that the world is flat, if you are a (Tom) Friedmanite, or that the world is run by a handful of global corporations, if you are a (Naomi) Kleinian.
Pankaj Ghemawat of IESE Business School in Spain is one of the few who has kept his head on the subject. For more than a decade he has subjected the simplifiers and exaggerators to a barrage of statistics. He has now set out his case—that we live in an era of semi-globalisation at most — in a single volume, “World 3.0”, that should be read by anyone who wants to understand the most important economic development of our time.
And a few of those statistics are set out in the column.
only 3% of people live outside their country of birth
only 7% of rice is traded across borders
exports are equivalent to only 20% of global GDP
only 20% of shares traded on stockmarkets are owned by foreign investors
less than 20% of internet traffic crosses national borders
I was struck by these, and especially the last one. I wondered whether I get anywhere this figure these days – and resolved to check.
The column ends by noting that people seem to have a tendency to overestimate the distance-destroying quality of technology, reminding us that this addiction to globaloney has been with us for a while:
Henry Ford said cars and planes were “binding the world together”. Martin Heidegger said that “everything is equally far and equally near”.
Schumpeter's final word is to remind us that George Orwell got so annoyed by all this that he wrote a blistering attack on all the fashionable talk about the abolition of distance and the disappearance of frontiers — and that was in 1944, when Hitler was advancing his own unique approach to the flattening of the world. Steve Gough and I wrote about Globalisation in our 2003 book: Sustainable development and Learning: framing the issues. Here it is: [Chapter 13] Globalisation and Fragmentation- Science and Self . It has fewer stats than Ghemawat manages and, sadly, no endorsement from the Economist!