Clash of the globalists

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Clash of the globalists

by Ari Armstrong

The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on September 2, 2004.

Can a globalist hate globalization? The tension is apparent in a pair of comments by John Kerry. In 1970, the Harvard Crimson quoted Kerry: "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations." Now Kerry offers a more restrained plan to forge global alliances. However, Kerry's web page states, "John Kerry and John Edwards know that we're stronger when we create good-paying jobs here, not ship them overseas."

In one respect, then, Kerry is an internationalist -- a globalist -- yet in another respect he's a nationalist who wants to limit global commerce.

Now take the opposite case. Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican Congressman from Texas, wants to get the U.S. out of the U.N. and foreign interventions generally. He opposed the war in Iraq. Paul has described his goal as "freedom and prosperity here at home" along with "peace and trade throughout the world."

Paul was influenced by such free-market economists as Ludwig von Mises. In his 1927 book Liberalism (subtitled in the English edition "In the Classical Tradition," to correct the retarded American conception of liberalism), Mises rails against war and argues in favor of global free markets and regional constitutionally limited government. Peace and free trade are corollaries, Mises argues. The division of labor that is the mark of an advanced economy can arise only in peaceful conditions, and free trade among nations fosters peaceful social and political ties.

Leftists seem not to catch the irony that Kerry follows Pat Buchanan in pandering to protectionist fools. Kerry's web page states, "As president, John Kerry will cut taxes for businesses that create jobs here in America instead of moving them overseas." In other words, Kerry wants to use tax policy to reduce international free trade and destroy some of the wealth that arises from comparative advantage.

The two main sorts of globalism, then, are political and economic. Kerry is a political globalist, while Mises and Paul are economic globalists. The two globalisms often conflict. Those who mistrust the liberal economy generally turn to increased state power both at home and abroad. Market liberals, on the other hand, generally advocate regional governments of power strictly limited to protecting individual rights, including rights to trade freely with others.

Of course, it is not inevitable that global political ties reduce global economic ties. While free-market advocates generally are skeptical of international "trade" agreements, precisely because such agreements often restrict trade, it is possible for governments to cooperate to, say, reduce tariffs and other protectionist measures.

Leftists often overlook their own anti-liberal nationalism, I think, because they attack the provincialist right rather than seriously address the free-market globalists. That is, it's easy for lefties to think, "Well, WE have friends in France, and WE travel to Europe, and WE read the international media, unlike those xenophobic dolts who follow around Tom Tancredo, scream at the Rocky Mountain News for photographing a Mexican flag and pretend none of their friends are gay."

The economic nationalists of the left also would sentence some in the third world to poverty and death, as well as hurt America's working poor by keeping prices higher, all while creating international political instability that is the inevitable result of protectionism.

Johan Norberg, a Swede who wrote In Defense of Global Capitalism, explains, "In the affluent world we have had capitalism in one form or another for a couple hundred years... [I]t is capitalism that has given people the liberty and motive forces to create, produce and trade, thereby generating prosperity. During the past two decades this system has spread throughout the world, in a process termed globalisation."

Interestingly, while the far left calls for the eventual dissolution of national borders ("Imagine there's no countries"), it is the market liberal who is most international. Many Marxists advocate small, strictly regional economic cooperatives. On the other end, some advocate one-world government. That Marxism generally degenerates into brutal totalitarian oppression shows the road to hell is paved with utopian schemes. The far left offers a choice between local tyranny and global tyranny.

Paul, on the other hand, is a fan of hard money -- meaning a metal currency unregulated by any state. Thus, the political isolationist Paul advocates a global currency, along with the global free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Paul, not Kerry, is the true internationalist.

The left rightly criticizes the mindless patriotism that so often accompanies political campaigns. Yet there is a rational patriotism by which we can adore our home for its virtues. This sort of patriotism welcomes internationalism.

In Benjamin Franklin's well-worn but always inspiring words, "God grant that not only the love of liberty, but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: ÔThis is my country'."

The human right to trade freely across borders is the foundation of international peace and prosperity. This is market globalization. As I type, I am listening to Canadian rockers Rush on my Japanese player. The album was recorded in England and these lyrics were printed in the U.S.: "Better the pride that resides / In a citizen of the world / Than the pride that divides / When a colorful rag is unfurled."

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