Globalization is a loaded word. Splashed across newspaper headlines and article titles, it can be found in the context of everything from African lithium mines to antisemitic dog whistles. Even within my Political Science class, I find myself weighing the benefits and disadvantages of globalization with Mr. Levine. However, while there are equally valid pros and cons to globalization, politicians and legislators cannot afford to waste any more time and energy on stopping what cannot be stopped. Globalization is our reality, and we need to focus on improving, not preventing, the practice.
Globalization is not a new phenomenon. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines globalization as “fundamental changes in the spatial and temporal contours of social existence, according to which the significance of space or territory undergoes shifts in the face of a no less dramatic acceleration in the temporal structure of crucial forms of human activity.” Put more simply, globalization is a term used “to describe how trade and technology have made the world into a more connected and interdependent place.” Of this, we can find plenty of past examples. Developments in maritime technology opened up the Triangle Trade, which connected Africa, Europe, and the Americas and necessitated the exchange of commodities to support each continent’s growing economy. The invention of the steam engine expedited industrial production and shortened travel times, stimulating domestic and international marketplaces. Planes ushered us into an era of new opportunities, where bombs and bananas could travel thousands of miles over mountains and sea in the span of hours. From these events, we can take away two important lessons: globalization increases the number of interconnected economic, social, and political systems, and globalization encourages further globalization to support those systems.`
The Information Age’s advancements in computing and communications technology have connected individuals on an unprecedented scale, making it near impossible to undo the process of globalization. Satellite signals make communication between an isolated jungle village and a bustling urban city not only possible, but practically instantaneous. Calculators crunch millions of dollars in currency as money flows through virtual markets. Algorithms on Facebook connect us with like-minded individuals oceans apart. Economic, social, and political spheres have taken advantage of new technology and developed a dependency as a result. We’ve seen firsthand the effects of any breakage in our interconnected supply chain. When cargo ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal, global trade shut down, affecting our very school community. Walking through the hallways, I overheard conversation between disgruntled students over rising bubble tea prices. The reason for rising prices? Tapioca pearls were trapped in the Suez Canal traffic.
Now that it’s clear there’s no stopping globalization, we need to work on improving the practice rather than attempting to prevent an unstoppable force. In recent elections, globalization has become a heated talking point. Legislators and hopeful electees espouse promises to reject globalism in favor of nationalistic policies. This rhetoric is mistaken. We cannot waste energy, time, or resources on stopping globalization when we know that we fully rely on globalization and at this point cannot back out. That isn’t to say globalization doesn’t have its problems. Labor outsourcing is one issue that immediately comes to mind. Exploiting newfound relationships with developing countries, wealthy nations outsource their labor for cheaper production at the price of losing domestic jobs and relying on labor of questionable ethicality. A real issue that can be seen while driving through the Rust Belt, it became a major talking point of the 2016 election as Trump campaigned to bring American jobs back. Instead of embarking on a quixotic quest against globalization, we can reap the benefits of international networks. As billions of new users join the internet, avenues open for more domestic jobs at companies like Google and Facebook. Collaboration between countries stimulates technological advances and creates entire new industries, such as e-commerce and digital currency.
Globalization is not without its flaws, but this doesn’t make it an invalid system. It’s simply in need of refining, not repealing. If we accept globalization as our undeniable reality, we can stop squandering energy and work towards a collaborative future that ensures prosperity for all people.