Written by Fumo Verde
What is globalization? We have all heard it mentioned in media sound bites, but do we really know what it’s all about? Joseph Stiglitz does and he’s here to explain it in 380 minutes across two DVDs. Stiglitz, who was Chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank, and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics explains to us what the visions of globalization looked like and how it has measured up to those who had envisioned it from conception. This is a crash course in World Economics with a professor who has taught at the universities, such as Columbia, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about a final exam.
Stiglitz discusses the subject of globalization in a way even a clownshoe such as myself could understand. For those of us who hate math and recoil at the thought of economics, this DVD makes it palatable. Stiglitz isn’t an actor so don’t get ready for a charismatically charged discussion. I have to be honest and admit I fell asleep five times while watching it. This was like sitting in traffic court; if you can pay attention, you can actually learn something. What is being said in this two-disc set is the truth about globalization from one of its architects, and unfortunately he’s not telling us everything is coming up roses.
So why did globalization fail, Mr. Stiglitz? There were many reasons, two of which stuck with me. These were in the areas of subsidies and trade barriers or tariffs. The IMF and the World Bank come to developing countries and offer them loans for different reasons depending on each country’s problems. If that country accepts the loan, it has to follow certain rules, such as to cease subsidizing its agricultural industry. This happened to most of the underdeveloped countries and is still happening today.
Seventy percent of the people from those countries depend on agriculture for their survival. Once the subsidies stop, the farmers can only depend on what they can get out of the land. That’s when the trade barriers and tariffs for that country must be removed, another rule to follow if the country wants the loan. As the trade barriers come tumbling down, in come the industrialized nations to “invest.” The farmers have to sell their corn for a certain amount, 50 cents a pound. When the investing nation comes in, it doesn’t have to deal with regulations, so it can sell its corn for 10 cents a pound.
If the main idea of globalization was to make the world richer by bringing the third world into the first, undercutting them at the dinner table isn’t going to do it. The example above isn’t one I made up; it was how Stiglitz told it because that is the way it happened. Investors are making money and the first-world nations are seeing better economies, but making someone less off to better myself leaves me with an even more bitter taste in my mouth about world politics and the banks that finance them than I already had.
The section on “Global Financial Institutions” was revealing. If Wall Street wants to invest in a developing country and it has its eye on a candidate that will enact laws and regulations, which would benefit Wall Street, they will blackmail, by way of pulling out investments, the country into electing the person they want. If their candidate doesn’t win, the investment money dries up. An investment firm certainly has the right to put its money where it wants to, but to interfere with the democratic process of another country should be beyond a company’s limits, and Stiglitz lets you know why.
If you want to understand what may happen in the next decade, Where is the World Going, Mr. Stiglitz? will help open your eyes and mind to what is really happening out there. From budget deficits to immigration woes, these discs cover the monetary ups and downs that have and may still occur in the not-so-far future. The information is awesome, sometimes overwhelming, but it is understandable. I wish the people who put this together with Mr. Stiglitz would put in some eye candy, pictures or scenes of other parts of the world, just to keep me awake. I understand the seriousness of the discussion, but if you are going to watch this, do it in segments and leave the herb alone. If you are looking for entertainment, this isn’t it.
We all keep saying politicians never answer the big questions, that’s because we as the people don’t ask those questions. This DVD set will get you motivated to ask those questions and it will give questions for you to ask. Stiglitz doesn’t have all the answers and he doesn’t imply it either, but he does cut through what we have all heard and gives honest assessments from what has happened, what is happening now, and what might happen if we don’t work out this ever-growing problem of a shrinking world. Globalization was supposed to help us all and it hasn’t.