There is too much emphasis on individual pain and not enough on collective opportunity.
Question: What are the challenges of globalization?
Tom Stewart: You know, the … the … the struggles over globalization are . . . This is the story. This is the … Globalization is the economic – and maybe the social – story of our … of our time. I’ve heard Larry Summers say that he thinks that, you know, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution and globalization may be events of comparable magnitude that, you know, historians may come back and look at … at this. Time will tell whether he’s right and … or whether the hypothesis is right. I don’t think he said it was a fact. I think he said it was a possibility. And I think he’s absolutely right. It troubles me a lot that the conversation about this has been so much about individual pain and so little about collective opportunity. The … There’s no question … globalization is good for the world. There’s no, you know … the amount of poverty has gone down. Life expectancy’s gone up in India and China and in other places. Africa is now showing economic growth. And granted, some of that growth that it’s showing is because China’s mark … China’s appetite for commodities is … is, you know, gargantuan. But there’s opportunity for everybody. And yes, opportunity for everybody in this kind of growth also means there are some people who are losing their jobs. And some people whose … whose … who will have to find – dare I say – new opportunity. And I … wanna sound “Pollyanna-ish” about it because I’ve lost my job. I know what it’s … I know some of what it’s like, and I can’t imagine anything more difficult than to be a member of, I don’t know, a traditional blue-collar, union family in Michigan that is seeing a way of life disappear and doesn’t quite know your way out of it, and working at Wal-Mart is a step down. I mean this is not . . . this is not easy. So making the transition possible for people is a really important aspect, both of … not only of public policy, but I also think of private policy and of corporate behavior. But understanding in the long run this is not a “zero sum” game … In the long run that this is actually making the world in the long run safer, in the long run a lot more prosperous.
There’s a book – and I’ve forgotten the name of the author – but a professor in the Economics Department at Harvard wrote a book …. published a book a couple of years ago called The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. Very interesting book that argues that . . . that economic growth actually creates the conditions under which people can be better. That if you are … and be more moral. Without economic growth it’s …, and moral behavior goes down. And you know … And from a global perspective, this is good. And at the same time, if you’re sitting there in Michigan and economic growth is going badly, you may have special problems that you … you’ve gotta deal with. This is a … this is a big important story.
Recorded on: 6/22/07