Written by Rev. Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa
A recent United Church News letter in response to an article on economic globalization clearly reflects an oversight of some of the realities of globalization.
The letter writer stated that globalization is not an ideology. That clearly is not true. Economic globalization is premised on what most economists label the neo-liberal economic theory. The goal of this theory is unfettered free trade. As practiced today, the goal of the proponents of economic globalization is, according to economist David Korten, "to integrate the world's national economies into a single, borderless global economy in which the world's mega-corporations are free to move goods and money anywhere in the world that affords an opportunity for profit, without governmental interferences.">
And while the letter writer would label as Marxist the statement, "Globalization spreads inequality, injustice, inequitable accumulation of wealth, monopoly, waste of scarce resources and unfair terms of trade," statistics certainly attest to the truthfulness of this assertion. The richest 10 percent of the world continue to increase in their share of wealth, while the lowest 20 percent continue to plunge into poverty. These figures hold true for the United States as well as the rest of the world. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations. Even the most conservative economists agree on these facts.
So the question needs to be asked: for whom is globalization working?
Consider this example: In 1994, General Motors decided to expand its production of the Suburban Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). (This vehicle, by the way, is among the worst producers of polluting emissions.) But instead of expanding its Wisconsin plant, it built a plant in Silao, Mexico. As of 1996, they paid an average worker in Wisconsin $18.96/hour. They paid a worker in their Silao plant $1.54/hour. Did this result in lower consumer prices for the vehicle? No, as a matter of fact, the price jumped in 1996 to $2,500. So who benefitted from this dramatic decrease in labor costs?
Be clear: no one is picking on GM in particular. This example is replicated in case after case. At the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, in which I participated, even the Bretton Woods institutions admitted major reforms are necessary and that economic globalization, as it is practiced today, is not working for the most disadvantaged. If Jesus' solidarity with the poor is our example, then we as the church must continue to work alongside them for a more just global economy.
The Rev. Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa is Economic Justice Team Leader in Justice and Witness Ministries.