The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Lupton Fund to bring British economist to campus

Conventional Wisdom About Globalization Turned on its Head by Philippe Legrain

“Although a heightened risk of global terror may require some changes to our way of life,” writes Philippe Legrain in the foreword to OPEN WORLD, “it does not imply that we have to barricade ourselves behind national borders.” Legrain’s new book about globalization dispels many of the myths that cloud debate on this urgent economic issue. The former trade and economic correspondent for the Economist will speak on the UTC campus on Monday, January 26 at 7 p.m. in the Raccoon Mountain Room of the University Center. His visit is free and open to the public, and it is sponsored by the Lupton Renaissance Fund. In September 2001, John T. and Alice Lupton provided UTC the largest unrestricted cash gift to public higher education in Tennessee to support campus transformation.

A renowned economist in Britain, Legrain argues that although globalization is generally a good thing, it is not perfect, and that we can improve on it. OPEN WORLD: The Truth About Globalization will be published this month by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago.

Legrain maintains that the idea and practice of globalization have been misrepresented by political activists who fail to understand its workings. Globalization, he insists, is neither a label for Americanization nor an excuse for worldwide corporate domination, and it does not eliminate local cultures or make governments irrelevant.

“Here’s a paradox about globalization,” he writes. “While many Americans fear that it threatens their jobs, their freedom, and their way of life, people elsewhere are paranoid that it reinforces America’s global dominance and imposes American ways on them. Americans fret that their jobs are being shipped to Mexico, but Mexicans quake that they cannot compete with America’s economic might. While many in Washington, D.C., think multilateral organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) curtail Americans’ freedom to frame their own laws, many Parisians view the WTO as an instrument for stamping American rules on the world. And whereas foreigners fume that they are being force-fed McDonald’s, Coke, and Hollywood films, many Americans worry that their national identity is fracturing into an alienating multiculturalism.”

“Surely, though,” Legrain continues, “all these concerns can’t be justified? Or is the closer economic, political, and cultural interaction between far-off people and places that is now known as ‘globalization’ really driving America and the rest of the world to rack and ruin? Don’t despair. Globalization is not the bogeyman it is made out to be.”

Legrain argues that national security is compatible with people, goods, and money zipping around the globe with ease. It does not prevent--or undermine the case for--American companies cutting their costs by making shoes in poor countries, for instance, and thus providing Americans with cheaper shoes and people in poor countries with jobs that better their lives.

In addition, Legrain argues that foreign trade and investment help poor countries catch up with rich ones: look at China, South Korea, and other Asian countries. Nor does inequality necessarily breed terrorism: witness black Africa. But in so far as poverty creates the conditions in which terrorists thrive, the answer is more globalization, not less. What he finds striking about the Middle East, despite its oil exports, is how closed off from the global economy it is.

Reassessing the pros and cons, Mr. Legrain finds no real foundation for the alarm that globalization has generated among a variety of protest groups. His compellingly readable and balanced evaluation analyzes all the major forces in the economic equation--workers, companies, governments, national economies, industry and agriculture, patents and profits, money and finance--and makes a clear case that we are free to choose our future and to shape globalization for the benefit of all.

Philippe Legrain is a freelance economics writer, who previously served as special adviser to Mike Moore, the then director-general of the World Trade Organization. Before that, he was trade and economics correspondent for the Economist. He has also written for the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal Europe, New Republic, Foreign Policy, and The Chronicle Review, among other publications. Legrain holds a first-class honors degree in economics and a masters in politics of the world economy, both from the London School of Economics. He is thirty years old and lives in London.