Courtesy Reuters

A False Alarm: Overcoming Globalization's Discontents

In This Review

In Defense of Globalization

By Jagdish N. Bhagwati
Oxford University Press, 2004
320 pp. $28.00

Globalization is a buzzword that has no precise definition. It takes on many meanings, drawing both fervent support and fervent opposition. Indeed, the term is so imprecise that it is possible to be simultaneously for and against globalization.

"In Defense of Globalization" focuses on its economic dimension, defined by Bhagwati as "diverse forms of international integration such as foreign trade, multinational direct foreign investment, movements of 'short-term' portfolio funds, technological diffusion, and cross-border migration." His main thesis is that economic globalization is an unambiguously good thing, with a few downsides that thought and effort can mitigate. His secondary thesis is that globalization does not need to be given a "human face"; it already has one. A thoughtful and objective evaluation, Bhagwati believes, will make this clear, and that is what he sets out to do.

The book addresses a slate of charges against globalization: that it increases poverty, encourages child labor, harms women, threatens democracy, imperils culture, lowers wages, erodes labor standards, worsens the environment, and gives full reign to predatory corporations. Bhagwati also discusses capital market liberalization and international migration, before turning to fixes for globalization's downsides: improving governance, accelerating social agendas, and managing the speed of transitions. He concedes a few points to globalization's critics but, wielding logic and fact, demolishes most of the allegations made against it. His conclusion: that the world, particularly its poorest regions, needs more globalization, not less.


Bhagwati was born in India and has settled in the United States. He was educated in those two countries and at Oxford and is now professor of economics at Columbia University. He maintains strong and active ties with his country of origin (where his brother was chief justice of the High Court) and with his adopted country (where his daughter is in the Marine Corps). In truth, he is a world citizen casting a critical eye, tongue, and pen on bad policies and bad arguments wherever he finds them -- a vocation that keeps

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