NYTimes - Globalist Tom Friedman weighs in on Seattle

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Senseless in Seattle

Is there anything more ridiculous in the news today then the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle? I doubt it.

These anti-W.T.O. protesters -- who are a Noah's ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions and yuppies looking for their 1960's fix -- are protesting against the wrong target with the wrong tools. Here's why:

What unites the anti-W.T.O. crowd is their realization that we now live in a world without walls. The cold-war system we just emerged from was built around division and walls; the globalization system that we are now in is built around integration and webs. In this new system, jobs, cultures, environmental problems and labor standards can much more easily flow back and forth.

The ridiculous thing about the protesters is that they find fault with this, and blame the W.T.O. The W.T.O. is not the cause of this world without walls, it's the effect. The more countries trade with one another, the more they need an institution to set the basic rules of trade, and that is all the W.T.O. does. "Rules are a substitute for walls -- when you don't have walls you need more rules," notes the Council on Foreign Relations expert Michael Mandelbaum.

Because some countries try to use their own rules to erect new walls against trade, the W.T.O. adjudicates such cases. For instance, there was the famous "Flipper vs. GATTzilla" dispute. (The W.T.O. used to be known as GATT.) America has rules against catching tuna in nets that might also snare dolphins; other countries don't, and those other countries took the U.S. before a GATT tribunal and charged that our insistence on Flipper-free tuna was a trade barrier. The anti-W.T.O. protesters extrapolate from such narrow cases that the W.T.O. is going to become a Big Brother and tell us how to live generally. Nonsense.

What's crazy is that the protesters want the W.T.O. to become precisely what they accuse it of already being -- a global government. They want it to set more rules -- their rules, which would impose our labor and environmental standards on everyone else. I'm for such higher standards, and over time the W.T.O. may be a vehicle to enforce them, but it's not the main vehicle to achieve them. And they are certainly not going to be achieved by putting up new trade walls.

Every country and company that has improved its labor, legal and environmental standards has done so because of more global trade, more integration, more Internet -- not less. These are the best tools we have for improving global governance.

Who is one of the top environmental advisers to DuPont today? Paul Gilding, the former head of Greenpeace! How could that be? A DuPont official told me that in the old days, if DuPont wanted to put a chemical factory in a city, it knew it just had to persuade the local neighbors. "Now we have six billion neighbors," said the DuPont official -- meaning that DuPont knows that in a world without walls if it wants to put up a chemical plant in a country, every environmentalist is watching. And if that factory makes even a tiny spill those environmentalists will put it on the World Wide Web and soil DuPont's name from one end of the earth to the other.

I recently visited a Victoria's Secret garment factory in Sri Lanka that, in terms of conditions, I would let my own daughters work in. Why does it have such a high standard? Because anti-sweatshop activists have started to mobilize enough consumers to impress Victoria's Secret that if it doesn't get its shop standards up, consumers won't buy its goods. Sri Lanka is about to pass new copyright laws, which Sri Lankan software writers have been seeking for years to protect their own innovations. Why the new law now? Because Microsoft told Sri Lanka it wouldn't sell its products in a country with such weak intellectual property laws.

Hey, I want to save Flipper too. It's a question of how. If the protesters in Seattle stopped yapping, they would realize that they have been duped by knaves like Pat Buchanan -- duped into thinking that power lies with the W.T.O. It doesn't. There's never going to be a global government to impose the rules the protesters want. But there can be better global governance -- on the environment, intellectual property and labor. You achieve that not by adopting 1960's tactics in a Web-based world -- not by blocking trade, choking globalization or getting the W.T.O. to put up more walls. That's a fool's errand.

You make a difference today by using globalization -- by mobilizing the power of trade, the power of the Internet and the power of consumers to persuade, or embarrass, global corporations and nations to upgrade their standards. You change the world when you get the big players to do the right things for the wrong reasons. But that takes hard work -- coalition-building with companies and consumers, and follow-up. It's not as much fun as a circus in Seattle.

-- (pshannon@inch.com), December 01, 1999



Article also posted on this thread (not clear from thread title)...

OT: Seattle: Couldn't have said it better myself

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id= 001tjf

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), December 01, 1999.

Regardless of your position on globalization, Thomas Friedman's book The Lexus and the Olive Tree is an important and worthwhile read.

Though Friedman's unbridled enthusiasm for globalization blinds him to some of the more negative impacts of the trend, he points out many of the reasons why he feels that globalization has, in essence, already occurred and why it is all but unstoppable at this point.

In many instances, Friedman acknowledges, then dismisses some of the more potentially negative aspects of globalization. This is where he and I disagree - I believe that the transition will be a bit more traumatic than he sees it.

While some might justifiably view Friedman's position as a Star Trek/Borg "You will be assimilated" argument, the evidence he presents in this book is compelling.

However, if Friedman's arguments are even close to correct, then the end of the nation-state system is close at hand. Maybe not entirely within our lifetimes but possibly so. It is no surprise then that many people would find globalization threatening.

In the book, Friedman points out that future wars may not be between nation-states but between those profitting from globalization and those people who are negatively impacted by it. But it is clear that Friedman feels such wars are just a minor bump on the road to a brighter tomorrow. I can't share his optimism here.

Friedman does come off a bit arrogant in some passages. He declares victory for globalization and, in essence, says, "It's now a fact. Get over it." This attitude is not entirely helpful in understanding the issues involved.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend Friedman book to anyone with an interest in the ongoing trend towards globalization, whether you support it, oppose it, or simply haven't made up your mind yet.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), December 01, 1999.

PShannon--yup, what a surprise that the New York Times is a shill for globalism. I wonder if Thomas Friedman has talked with his daughter about the possibility of working at the Victoria's Secret factory in Sri Lanka? Perhaps not, but it seems clear to him that we'd all be lucky to have such a job in such resplendent conditions. BTW, my eye kept drifting to the bottom of the op-ed page: Huge letters...HATE...BIGOT...ADL.

-- Spidey (free@last.Amen), December 01, 1999.

But there's the Y2K wild card. Personally, I don't like the continuing aggregation of power and dominance by the corporations.

-- Mara (MaraWayne@aol.com), December 01, 1999.

Anyone remember the name of the book by Sir James Goldsmith? Was it "The Trap?" All about globalist deceitfulness...

-- Spidey (free@last.Amen), December 01, 1999.

While watching the coverage from Seattle over the last couple days it occurred to me that there is one statistic I haven't seen... and probably will NEVER see. The local news mentioned that in California 12 million jobs were created because of EXPORTS to other countries. Okay. But there is a HUGE trade imbalance, right? We import much more than we export, right? So... How many MORE jobs would we have if U.S. workers were making those widgits and Nikes and toasters etc. that we are now importing?

And are the new jobs overseas really making things better for the poor in the LONG RUN? Or is it like the tobacco plantations of South America that sound so promising to the locals that they give up a way of life that they have had for hundreds of years, only to find after they have cleared the forest that the soil is depleted within a very few years and they then have nothing, not the new prosperity or the old way of life?

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), December 01, 1999.


Good assessment. Friedman's shrewd, gustsy and articulate. He's the best out there. Pervasive globalism has arrived just as sure as Communism is defunct. He just doesn't take the cyclical nature of big transitions into account enough. It will be tramatic.

But everything is relative and for a Jewish reporter that was gutsy enough to accept a Beruit posting in the early 80s for his first foreign assignment, when the kidnapping of Westerners was rampant, he knows trama. Don't limit your Friedman reading to his last book. His Beirut to Jerusalem is a great book and Friedman continues to spout a better understanding of Mideast fundamentals than anyone else out there...

I think he's right on target on Seattle as well.

Oh, one more thing....The death of the nationstate in our lifetime??? Heck, we'll see the inception of it and a big acceleration of this trend in a few months....Keep reading Friedman, and hang on....

-- Downstreamer (downstream@bigfoot.com), December 01, 1999.

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