Co-founder of Webhelp, Olivier Duha shares his opinion on globalization in these thought-provoking times.

When things go wrong, it is common for people to search for a guilty party, someone who is responsible for the pain experienced. The crisis we are going through has not escaped this rule and, of those considered culpable, globalization tops the list.

Already accused of causing mass unemployment, increasing inequalities, weakening local culture and driving up global warming, globalization is now considered responsible for the circulation of the virus and for our dependence on strategic foreign assets.

The accusations against globalization are flawed. The reality is that globalization has become the victim of many biases.

  1. Cognitive biases, what Steven Pinker called “progress phobia”. Our minds, for example, naturally tend to focus on costs rather than benefits, the evil can sometimes appear stronger than the good. These biases lead us to forget or ignore the progress that globalization has made during the twentieth century. The rate of extreme poverty (considered by X as earning/having less than $ 1.90 / day) fell from 60%, to 10% between 1950 and 2015. Life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900, from 32 to 72 years. Famine and malnutrition, conflicts and wars, infant mortality, illiteracy, slavery and servitude; all over the world these evils are in free fall, and despite what the daily news is pouring out to us, we are witnessing the most dizzying improvement in our living conditions that the world has ever known
  2. Cultural biases: criticism of globalization is a “privilege” of Western populations, places where individuals have inherited progress rather than felt the immediate effects in their lifetime. In developing countries, the effects can be seen in a much more concrete way. We benefit from progress without realizing it, while we feel the costs of globalization more directly
  3. Fundamental aspiration: imagining a “de-globalized” world has no meaning or future. Firstly, because globalization responds to a fundamental human aspiration of exchange, which is the expression of freedom. As economist Ricardo said in 1817, freedom is the most effective engine of growth, and homage there is no progress without growth. In addition, we can view globalization as a drug for society – a socio-degenerative phenomenon for some, an ecological disaster for others. For many, globalization remains a powerful trigger of our strongest consumerist impulses.

As Sébastien Bohler (author of The Human Bug, 2019) notes globalization is our best ally, as it has made it possible to democratize what was for thousands of years reserved for an elite. In this context, the debate is not “should we try to stop globalization?”, but “how can we make globalization more virtuous?”

First of all, it is essential to never lose sight of the fact that globalization does not make a nation competitive by nature. It is the competitiveness of a nation that enables it to enjoy the potential of globalization.

We can work to create a more “reasoned” globalization by preserving free trade while taking a firmer view of the proponents of short-termism or the selfishness of states.

If the debate on industrial sovereignty opened by the crisis is legitimate, we must above all give ourselves the means to be part of global competition, to benefit from the multiplier effect of a global playing field. This requires stable and effective regulations co-constructed with economic players, investment in infrastructure (telecoms, energy, freight), training and research, and coordinated and proactive policies.

The means to place a price on carbon, protect intellectual property rights, apply anti-social policies or anti-public subsidy measures are known. It is the political will to apply them consistently at the global level that is lacking. For that to happen, multilateralism must be overhauled, out of the quagmire of the “Doha Round” initiated by the WTO in 2001, which to this day has not seen any results.

The challenge is immense, but the gravity of the current situation imposes on us an urgent need to reassess the current world order.

This article was originally posted on L’Opinion.