Carlos Barria / Reuters Trump supporters at a rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, November 2018.

The Bogus Backlash to Globalization

Resentful Nativists Oppose Free Trade and Immigration—Don’t Appease Them

The last two years have seen an outbreak of self-abnegation among former advocates of globalization, who wonder if their cosmopolitan views on migration and free trade might have helped deliver the White House to U.S. President Donald Trump. In turn, longtime critics of globalization on the left have crowed at this apparent admission of defeat. Both camps have suggested that the backlash Trump represents is understandable and that internationalists should do more to accommodate an electorate that has turned against global engagement.

Yet both camps misunderstand Trump’s electoral success. The voters who were won over by his antiglobalist message were not legitimate victims of globalization. Many, if not most, were and are older white supporters of patriarchy who resent people with dark skin, especially those from other countries. Although it might be inexpedient to call this group deplorable, a program of appeasement toward their views is wrong—economically, politically, and morally. Globalization has been an overwhelmingly positive force for the United States and the rest of the world. Instead of apologizing for themselves, it is time for internationalists to take the fight to an aging minority of nativists and wall builders.

THE BLESSINGS OF GLOBALIZATION

Backlash appeasers have a number of thoughtful and influential voices on their side. Many are former champions of globalization who worry that it has moved too fast. The Financial Times commentator Edward Luce, for instance, suggested in his 2017 book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism, that by promoting globalization, “the world’s elites have helped provoke what they feared: a populist uprising against the world economy.” To save the liberal project, he argued, we must abandon “the drive to deep globalization.” Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has similarly warned of “a growing suspicion on the part of electorates that globalization is an elite project that primarily benefits elites.”

Other members of this chorus are liberals and left-wingers who have long been critical of free trade and who see Trump’s election as a vindication. In a March

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