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Solutions to the vulnerability of a globalized world

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There are two solutions to threats against our global economy. The first is imperialism. The second is more complicated.

When people proclaim that “we live in a globalized world,” it is usually implied that to be “globalized” is a good thing—and it usually precedes some exhortation to learn a new language or something of the sort. But while “globalization” is so exhausted a word to mean nearly anything to anyone, I’d like to frame it as Noam Chomsky does: “international integration” (does that help any?).

“Globalization” just means international integration. No sane person is “anti-globalization” [“A World Without War”].

Chomsky’s point is that there is nothing wrong with an internationally integrated economy (any sane person would want it), but that it just happens to be—right now—in the wrong hands. Those wrong hands are the “masters of the universe,” or “the wizards of Davos”—a few movers and shakers with violent imperialist tendencies and essentially anti-democratic views. Chomsky makes no causal connection between an internationally integrated world economy and the World Economic Forum. He just doesn’t bother.

But if you bother to look at what an internationally integrated economy really means, you’ll realize that centralized, imperialistic power is—quite frankly—necessary.

Here’s what Janet Napolitano has to say (“The urgent need to protect the global supply chain”):

As I announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the United States released a National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, the product of more than two years of collaboration across the U.S. government, and with international and domestic public and private partners.

The National Strategy, created with the input of more than 60 subject matter experts and hundreds of supply chain stakeholders, takes a whole-of-nation approach to global supply chain systems, with two explicit goals: promoting the efficient and secure movement of goods; and fostering resiliency.

The vulnerability of a globalized world? Logistics.

Every day, staggering numbers of air, land and sea passengers, as well as millions of tons of cargo, move between nations. International trade and commerce has long driven the development of nations and provided unprecedented economic growth. Indeed, our future prosperity depends upon it.

At the same time, threats to trade and travel — whether from explosives hidden in a passenger’s clothing or inside a ship’s cargo, or from a natural disaster — remind us of the need for security and resilience within the global supply chain. A vulnerability or gap in any part of the world has the ability to affect the flow of goods and people thousands of miles away. For instance, just three days after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear tragedies struck Japan last March, U.S. automakers began cutting shifts and idling some plants at home. In the days that followed, they did the same at their factories in more than 10 countries around the world.

With insecure or inefficient logistics, the global economy collapses. Does there seem to be a causal connection between this basic fact about globalization and the interests at Davos to “protect the global supply chain”? I think so too. Does “protecting the global supply chain” sound like imperialism? Ms. Napolitano’s words are too vague for it to be anything friendlier.

Solution #1 to the vulnerability of a globalized world: Imperialism.

But there’s another possible solution. A much more complicated, ideological solution. To see it, we need only ask: Where are the real logistical security threats to our globalized world coming from?

Are any of them liberal democracies?

Solution #2 to the vulnerability of a globalized world: Liberal democracy.

Written by M. James

February 12, 2012 at 1:32 am

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