by Sigalit Hoffman
Globalization is a tidal wave, said Professor Margie Mendell,
director of Concordias Karl Polanyi Institute. You have to
make sure you have a life jacket or else youll drown.
In an interview, Mendell warned that globalization has created a casino
culture that has destabilized national economies and changed the
nature of investment.
In order to invest in the prosperity of an economy, time is critical,
she said. The concept of time has evaporated. Investment has become
highly speculative. The whole notion of an enterprise has shifted.
The recent stock market nosedive and the plummeting of Nortel stocks are
some examples of the roller-coaster economy globalization has created,
the professor of economic theory and public policy said, and individuals
bear the brunt of this instability.
People dont have the flexibility to move in and out of high-profit
areas, she said. This leads to money flowing in and out of countries
without granting citizens an opportunity to profit from the investments
in their country.
As long as there is trade, you need to have some capital remaining
in your country to keep it going, Mendell said. Financial
markets that exist exclusively to generate capital [are] not about productive
She noted the paradox in the concept of a free-market economy. What
youre told is that its a big world. We can buy things from
Mexico or Thailand [with] no nasty governments creating problems. This
is a lie, Mendell said.
There are more people involved in steering this free-market global
economy than the number of people fine-tuning the economy in the [protectionist]
Financial instability is only one of the many drawbacks of globalization.
Multinational plants in developing countries have played a role in preventing
their advancement, said Concordia Religion professor Fred Bird.
Theyve created a bubble that might make developing societies
worse off, he said. Bird explained that these multinationals often
operate a plant for a certain number of years and then relocate, leaving
local employees with no long-term skills such as literacy.
Mendell agreed, and added that developing countries do not share the profit
from the goods they produce. Capital flows out to earn profits elsewhere.
It is not available in the country of origin, she said.
Globalization also enforces the status quo of exploiting workers in poor
countries that have lower labour standards.
The challenges of globalization can be overcome, according to Political
Science professor Everett Price. He gave the example of the Council of
Canadians defeat of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.
As long as you can continue to be perceived as a thorn in powers
side, you must be doing something right, he said. If you have
the will and determination, you can affect the political agenda.
Price agreed with Mendell in her view that globalization is not an inevitability,
but a political choice. Weve got to really consider how our
society is organized politically to ensure that the citizenry have greater
say on the things that interest them directly, he said.
Mendell affirmed the power of the people to dictate government policy.
Despite the severe cuts made to social programs in Canada, she is sure
that the citizens will not allow them to disappear.
Despite the cuts, there was a certain limit below which the Canadian
population would not have been willing to [allow programs to sink],
she said. Markets are important, but when societies are determined
by them, thats when people have to wake up and they will.
This is part of a series of articles about globalization and the views
of Concordia faculty and students.