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Spring 2004
Globalization's Missing Middle
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In the new global economy, rich and poor nations are doing fine. It is those like the countries of Latin America in the middle that are struggling

Illustration of Man Amidst Various Scientific Elements

It is sometimes hard to remember that the debate over globalization dominated world politics from the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s until September 11, 2001. On one side of the discussion stand the boosters of globalization, represented by the "Washington consensus" among the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury, as well as the globetrotting pilgrims to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. They assert that the integration of global markets is not only good for them, it is also the best way to enrich and empower the world's have-nots.

Critics of globalism populist politicians, labor leaders, environmentalists and other activists come together wherever and whenever the Washington consensus meets, most notoriously during the "battle in Seattle" at the meeting of the World Trade Organization in December 1999. For them, globalization only lines the pockets of the global elite at the expense of working people, developing countries and the planet.

The debate over the spoils of economic globalization has taken on new meaning since September 11. President Bush made his views clear on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks: "Poverty, corruption and repression are a toxic combination in many societies. . . . Free trade and free markets have proved their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty, so the United States is working . . . to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity." But the criticisms continue, with the Democratic candidate for president lamenting the "offshoring" of not only manufacturing but also call centers and other services during America's "jobless" recovery.

Is the president right that "a world that trades in freedom" is one that also "grows in prosperity"? My answer is yes and no. I believe that there are three discrete worlds of globalization, and each has important but different implications for the future course of global politics.

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