18. Globalization: The rise of a global economic order is one of the distinguishing features of our age. The term “globalization” points to a worldwide process of intensification of the movement of both outputs and inputs, especially labor and capital, bringing with it a growing web of social interconnectedness.
With the end of the Cold War and the opening up of many emerging markets, the marketplace for businesses around the world has expanded enormously. This has created new opportunities and new threats. Whole peoples who were previously excluded from the world economic system can now participate in and benefit from it.
Greater efficiencies have made more products and services affordable for more people. At the same time, greater world output has been accompanied by greater inequality in the distribution of income and wealth, both within countries and between them. Regional economic zones, with free movement of goods and even single currencies, encourage trade and stimulate innovation. They are not, however, always accompanied by equally free possibilities for the movement of working people in search of employment. Especially where there is a single currency, the resulting limitations that national or local governments encounter when trying to promote an effective economic policy, especially during a localized crisis, may put whole political systems under strain.
At the same time, markets have gone from being relatively homogeneous culturally to highly diverse. This is positive in that it brings different cultures into greater communication with one another. However, considering the effects of aggressive competition and the global marketing of standardized products, the dangers of cultural imperialism and loss of diversity should be carefully examined. Pope Benedict XVI has summarized these divergent forces by observing that, “as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers”.
As the Church points out, globalization is neither good nor bad by itself. It’s a trend, a capability, that can be used by the world to promote good or bad. It’s our responsibility as business people to do the former, and to mitigate the latter.
The Eurozone is a good example of the opportunity globalization brings. Citizens of one country can work in another without a permit, and having a common currency means cash can be sent home or spent locally. The endemic high unemployment currently plaguing some European nations makes this more difficult but in “normal” times this aspect of globalization is positive for those who need to migrate for better economic opportunities.
In this country we are in the middle of a debate/crisis concerning undocumented workers and children from Mexico and Central America. It’s a shame this system could not have been made more rational, caught up as it is in acrimonious political debate. The Church recognizes that a country has a right to control its borders, and that citizens of other countries have a right to migrate to improve their lot in life. It’s up to us as laypeople to figure out how to better balance those rights for the benefit of all.
Technology is the grease of globalization, and it speeds everything up: goods and services ship faster at a lower cost, information is democratized and is almost free, MOOCs and other educational content are available at no charge, and communication is cheap and instantaneous. People in emerging economies don’t have the education or training to take advantage of all of this, which is a problem that needs to be solved.