Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Free trade and globalisation: more than "just stuff"

So writes Donald J. Boudreaux in this article Free Trade and Globalization: More than "Just Stuff" . Boudreaux concludes by saying,
The fear that globalization makes the world less interesting culturally is baseless. The effect of free trade is twofold: first, it gives us more prosperity and, second, this prosperity creates diversity and dynamism. Both of these effects are good reasons for opposing the antediluvians who would obstruct international trade.
Something to keep in mind is that when you are wealthy, the wealth due in part to trade and globalisation, you can afford to develop art and culture. But it goes further than this:
Learning and rich culture require wealth—what the above mentioned critics would call "more stuff"—for their growth and sustenance. They also require exposure and openness to different cultures. Such wealth and exposure are promoted by trade, which enables an extensive and productive market-directed division of labor.

The wealth, freedom, and diverse experiences of a commercial culture liberate artists and educators both to be more creative and to cater to the demands of the general population. In a poor society in which only a small elite has wealth and leisure, artists and educators cater only to the elite's desires. Art forms disliked by elites, as well as knowledge not useful to them, do not thrive. But as trade creates greater and more-widespread wealth, the range of tastes and opportunities that are available to support and influence art and education grows. With the elites no longer being the exclusive supporters of art, the artist who previously found no support for his musical compositions or his poetry might now find sufficient support from the middle classes. Likewise for the teacher who, earlier, found no market for his knowledge.

This trade-fueled process results not only in a more literate society, but also in immense cultural enrichment. Culture takes on many more dimensions: not only orchestral music, but also rock'n'roll, rhythm'n'blues, and rap; not only portraiture and landscapes, but also Andy Warhol soup cans and abstract paintings; novels not only by Virginia Wolff, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner, but also by Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling, and Clive Cussler. Movies cater to high tastes, dull tastes, and vulgar tastes. Likewise for music, theater, television, dance, photography, and—more recently—websites and blogs.
Yes globalisation helps even blogs. Imagine if you could only read the blogs from any one country or region, how much would we miss out on? Here in New Zealand we would miss Don Boudreaux for a start. So there is more to globalisation than just "stuff".

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