There was an excellent article in Foreign Policy this month about “Japanese Cool”… how Japan is successfully exporting its culture even in the face of a weakening economy. That, in my mind, is a powerful argument against one of the biggest critiques of globalization: that it leads to a world dominated by Americanized monoculture. It’s still valid, and I still think that real cultures do tend to be refined into their most banal versions too often, but it isn’t the “creeping Americanism” that some people define it as.
I think it’s important to remember what we’re debating over. Gadarene is right: states should have sovereignty over their own borders, and any rights of foreign investors should not supercede that, especially the phantom of “lost profits” that implies a right to profits that nobody deserves. It’s also important to recognize that unequal trade benefits no one, and that even the WTO is at the mercy of the more powerful states in ways that make the power balance inherently and inescapably unequal. Part of the reason it should be understood that states should retain sovereignty is that those that are powerful enough already do: I think that the current farm bill and the steel and lumber disputes make it obvious that state governments, as well as inherently having the right to alter their economies, are not willing to cede those rights if they’re powerful enough to get away with it.
In the end, the problem is that money is not enough: it comes down to questions of power. Globalization is meaningless as long as more powerful governments (or even corporations) can play with the rules, and although the theory may be laudable, the actual outcome can be not nearly so positive. I’m not sure how much more benefit globalization would grant first world service-based economies, and the power inbalances have lead to severe problems in the agrarian- and manufacturing-based third world countries that stand to benefit most from international trade. As long as Iowa farmers help determine the presidentian candidates, the agrarian third world will never really get a fair deal.