What’s in a name?
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What’s in a name?

Globalism has brought about income inequality.

Globalism has brought about income inequality.

The expression in the title of this week’s contribution comes from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, the tragic love story of the two young lovers from Verona. Given that they come from two warring families, Juliet tells her Romeo that it does not matter what his surname is as he is still the same person.

In our case, this week the name does make an important difference. I am making the distinction between globalisation and globalism. These are two words which are very often given the same meaning – very often by ill-intentioned people – while they have totally different meanings.

Globalisation is a concept that has been driven by the free movement of people, the free exchange of goods and services, the development of transportation systems, communication systems and technology, and more importantly by the exchange of ideas. Whether we like it or not, globalisation is with us and has been with us for some time. Internet made sure of that. 

That the world has become one village is not an expression that has been coined only in the last couple of years. And I believe that we have generally benefitted from it. Our quality of life has improved thanks to globalisation.

On the other hand, globalism is an economic ideology that gives the neoliberal global order priority over national interests. Nobody can deny that we are living in a globalised world. As I said, the internet has made sure of that. However, this does not mean that we should embrace globalism.

This is why I have referred to ill-intentioned people before. On the one hand, there are those who have used the concept of globalisation to push their globalist agenda. They claim the world is one market place and there should be completely free movement of goods, services, people, and most important of all for them, capital. 

The result is goods being produced by exploiting child labour. Another result has been the super-rich making economic gains not by adding value but by simply moving capital from one country to another, causing havoc to banking systems around the world and impoverishing large segments of the population. There have been other nasty consequences of globalism, but these two examples show that we should not embrace this ideology. 

These consequences have led to the rise of the so-called populists. We should not be shocked by Donald Trump’s battle cry, “America first” because the current Italian government speaks of “Italians first” and the prime Minister of Hungary speaks of “Hungary first”. So there is a wave of political leaders who believe that to counteract globalism, they need to restore national sovereignty. The problem is that instead of fighting globalism, they are fighting globalisation, which are not one and the same thing.

Today’s economic realities require cooperation and not closing off economies through protectionism and nationalistic politics. I believe we do need to take back control from those global economic forces that continue to seek to impose their liberal – in the negative sense of the word – agenda on us. I also believe that we should feel economically secure in our own country; but I equally believe we should remain open to the world at large.

What can be done to draw a firm distinction between globalisation and globalism? There are three things which I believe are essential. There are probably more but I will mention just three elements.

First, we need to address the income inequality that globalism has brought about. We need to create a framework at a global level (like there exists on a national level) of public-private cooperation. This means considering economic growth worldwide as a public good, a common good, implying that the governments and the private sector drive for economic growth while keeping in mind sustainability and social cohesion. All countries and all social segments in each of those countries should be able to partake from the economic growth generated. 

Second is the need to avoid considering the various economic options on an either/or basis. We should not be talking about free trade or protectionism but we should seek a way of having free trade that does not exploit and does not exclude people. We should not be talking of either technological developments or defending jobs. We can actually have both with the right educational systems in place. Economic growth and fairer income distribution are not necessarily opposites. Those promoting globalism pose the question in an either/or context, and we have fallen for their ploy.

Third, we need a global governance framework. When the Roman Catholic Church had mentioned this some seven years ago, the idea was met with derision. Today it is becoming increasingly recognised that we need a global public authority to regulate international financial and monetary systems. Otherwise the rich will continue to become richer and the poor will continue to become poorer. Globalisation requires global public authorities. However, our political structures are still modelled on an international economy – where countries simply traded with each other – rather than a globalised economy. 

I go back to the title of this week’s contribution. There is a big difference between the terms globalism and globalisation. It is not like the rose that would always smell sweet, irrespective of what name you give it. If we wish to overcome this drive towards economic protectionist policies, we need to tackle globalism and promote true globalisation.

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