Cay Hehner, Ph.D.
[Reprinted from the Henry George News,
Vol.71, Issue 1, January-April, 2005]
There are many ways in which one may look at the phenomenon of
globalization. One widely held meaning takes it to be synonymous with
the internationalization of trade. Opposed to that sense of
globalization we find mainly "local heroes" who are
convinced that only grass-roots democracy and local action can prevent
and guard the world against the ills and fall-out effects of a world
commercialization gone ballistic! Another sense of globalization would
be the forced exportation of a particular frame-of-mind -- a national
frame-of-mind that is.
Globalization has apparently become the one all-overriding economic
concern in many countries and many parts of the world. The issue is so
burningly predominant that it splits individuals of the same peer
groups, the same political persuasion, the same social outlook, and
even the same cultural and economic background -- not to mention
lovers, spouses, families, or brethren in the spirit! Fortunately for
us, Henry George, in his ground- breaking Protection or Free Trade
left us a textbook, albeit written in 1886, that discusses the
question at length and leaves nothing to be desired as to how this
issue needs to be resolved by sober-minded and thoughtful people.
There is no argument in the book for free trade and against
protectionism or vice versa that cannot be directly applied to the
intensely controversial issues of globalization.
The main questions we need to ask ourselves with regards to
globalization are the following: Globalization, exactly for whom is
it? Is globalization meant for raw materials profiteers and land
monopolists? Or is it meant for humankind as a whole, that is you and
me in other words? Is it for the "chosen few" who managed to
corner the real estate market worldwide and live as land rentiers "happily
ever after"? Or is it for John and Jane Doe who do work for a
living? A careful and conservative estimate of the second category --
that is those who work for a living -- would put their number at
around 6 billion of the 6 billion plus passengers of our spaceship
earth -- a term coined by Henry George by the way -- and the first
category -- the land rentiers -- could be estimated as the remaining
or "plus" people.
The next questions we need to ask ourselves are: What exactly is
globalization? Is globalization equal to Americanization as has
frequently and proudly been suggested? After all the US won the Cold
War after having won World War I and World War II and it seems only to
be appropriate that the rest of the world "catches on" to us
and our so apparently, doubtlessly, and eminently American Way of
Again: Who is doing the globalizing, the Americanizing? Who is
serving as the "template" for the proud social status "blueprint"
of roughly 300 million Americans? Not the working poor, or the
unemployed or the homeless who are crowding our cities in ever more
embarrassing numbers too embarrassing to be overlooked? Not the
hard-working middle class who has not seen a wages and salaries
increase, in terms of real purchasing power, in 30 years and who is
being squeezed between a rock and a hard place, or the proverbial
frying pan and the fire in trying to make ends meet, send kids to
college which really even the more well to do can't afford anymore
nowadays, meet exploding health care costs, and the depletion of
retirement funds -- after all, remember? the baby boomers have just
Or is it just again a globalization meaning Americanization of the "plus"
Americans, the fortunate Fortune 500 crowd, the "beautiful people"
who so wonderfully and glamorously make up the Hollywood gossip
magazines and glitterati catwalks?
This latter question definitely does not seem to be the case,
otherwise the world would definitely and "globally" look
different! Or are we, in fact, exporting our homeless, our
underprivileged, our "the-devil-may-take-the-hindmost", our
working poor? 'The poor shall always be with us' sayeth the Scripture,
it seems to be somewhat redundant to want to take all the trouble to
export them, doesn't it? Who wants more poverty, more poor? And we
have to look at the context: Jesus Christ does not say that he
sanctions or approves of the poor being what they are or remaining in
their wretched condition! Far from it! He is admonishing his disciples
and through them the rest of mankind who cares to listen to him to
apply his teachings!
What about the outsourcing of our jobs overseas and what about
glutting the domestic market with way- below minimum wage cheap-labor
products from China delivered to our doorstep with ever increasing
speed and tonnage? Aren't we exporting their poverty to the land of
the free and home of the brave? Why China? Surely not to reward it for
their human rights record: the most dismal one with respect to the
Tibetan genocide since the Nazis and the Stalinists and some
developing world dictatorships.
Now, let's make no mistake: This is not about discriminating against
any country or any ethnicity, not at all. This is about distinguishing
between economic policies that work for all and honor the human
dignity of all involved in the economic process and those who don't,
It is enlightening to read Henry George's early pre-Progress and
Poverty writings to see how prescient a thinker and economist he
was! For the term globalization to make sense, Georgist sense that is,
the question of natural resources management and the allocation of
equal opportunities will have to be determined! It makes no sense to
join the poorest countries in their race to the bottom or import the
most dismal human rights violations of the 21st Century! That cannot
be the solution of this truly global issue. In ascertaining
accessibility of natural opportunity for everyone on the contrary
minimum wages shall be brought up not in an arbitrary manner, but in
accordance with natural law, general wealth may be increased, and
poverty levels will be driven down. It is hence not a monopoly
globalization that we seek or a globalization of the rentier class of
the fortunate few but an equal natural- opportunities globalization
for you and me and everyone. And we might as well start now!
If everyone in the world were to adopt the energy wastage concomitant
and inherent in the American Way of Life our planet would long have
been depleted and, irony of fate, the children and grandchildren of
the happy few conspicuous consumers would certainly go to down with us
as the rest of the world population. George's Free Trade
paradigm provides a way out of that deadly dilemma.
Remember the Tower of Babel? Remember these dire and apocalyptic
visions in the Scriptures? Which as Joseph Campbell has told us by the
way are much more rampant and inherent in all the latter-day texts of
all the great world religions and world spiritual traditions. What
happened in Babel? The very selfsame people who just had no problem
communicating with each other suddenly spoke .in many tongues. (that
is many languages) and they couldn't understand each other any more?
Does that remind you of something? That's not like our world today, no
way! There have literally been wars which got started with hundred
thousands if not millions of people getting killed just because a
translator made a mistake -- that is no joke, unfortunately.
How many conflicts and killings are caused by misunderstandings? One
culture not understanding another. One people discriminating against
another, literally for no other reason but that they don't speak the
same language. Now, what is one of the side effects of globalization?
Anybody who wants to do anything, go anywhere, make any experience, or
engage in any kind of exchange, he or she most likely has to learn
English? That doesn't mean that other languages should not be
cherished and cultivated, far from it! It just means English,
inadvertently and by default, is a left-over from the British
colonialism and now swimming in the wake of the US superpower status.
It has become a kind of world lingua franca. Something like a general
currency among the languages, with Spanish, French, Hindi, and
Cantonese running a close second. This, in effect, reverses the
language confusion of Babylonian times. No globalization in any of its
many senses would be possible without a linguistic backdrop to
capitalize upon the global market-place of ideas and commodity items.
The sea-monsters and land- monsters, the behemoths and leviathans
with which the Scriptures were scaring the living daylights out of all
of us. Where are they now? Perhaps they have changed shape. Perhaps
the serpent against which we are being warned has taken the shape of
everyone who is dependent on oil. Perhaps the dragons we are up
against now a days are the dragons of corporate greed and monopoly? In
his Professor Challenger short story The Earth Screams, Conan Doyle
relates the surrealistic fallout engendered by a drilling too deep
below the crust of the earth. Sound familiar? In Crimes against Nature
the environment advocate Robert Kennedy Jr. makes a number of
startling statements: Show me a polluter and I show you a subsidy!
Large corporations are not interested in competition, they are
interested in steady profits, so, they are interested in eliminating
it. Capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich. .The
free-market system is great we should try it sometimes.. Not
environmentalism but an implementation of a true free market is
mandatory. We are stealing the land from our children!
Hernando de Soto in his Mystery of Capital states a number of
facts and makes inferences which are important for any discussion on
globalization. De Soto's economic philosophy has been called: A Poor
Man's Guide to Capitalism. Statements relevant to us are:
Only 25 of the 200 countries of the earth are able to
capitalize their Capitalism.
Lester Thurow remarked that Capitalism would have almost vanished
from the face of the earth if World War II had had a different
outcome. Only the US and Great Britain had upheld the torch of the
free- enterprise system. The former Communist countries failed to
successfully transfer their economies. Capitalism never really worked
in Latin America. Because in both the former Soviet block and in the
Latin American countries: "strong underground economies, glaring
inequality, pervasive mafias, political instability, capital flight,
and flagrant disregard of the law" prevail.
Now what is the reason for this mess? Property is unstable in Latin
America and in most other countries of the world except what is
somewhat incongruously and paradoxically called the West. Secure
property rights for every one and we shall have a Brave New World
indeed! Is that what George meant by equal access to natural
opportunities? Is that what he meant by Free Trade? Does his
single-tax paradigm protect or demolish private property?
To sum up: Is Globalization good or bad? Rephrase that: What would
make globalization desirable, and what would make it undesirable? If
Kennedy is right: How can we steal back the land for our children? How
can the Leviathan, that is unfortunately not just proverbial, be
slain? How can the Greater Leviathan be domesticated to all of our
common weal? Is Hernando DeSoto on the right track when he maintains
that global poverty would be abolished if only all the poor and
downtrodden of the earth could capitalize the value of their
land and natural resources? What actually lies at the root of our
ecological devastation and global economic impoverishment but profits
the .happy few plus. people? In spending nearly four decades working
with the theories of so-called worldly philosophers, and in a wider
sense on the wise men's answers to the question of right livelihood, I
have never come across anyone who managed to get the whole picture.
and factor in the main elements land, labor, capital, nature and
spirit and to harmonize them as well as Henry George did. After all
the other answers have failed, it's time to try his.