Arguing the Past

Michael Lind has a compelling piece on where the arguments on globalization are and where they should be. 

Today, shrill free traders continue to debate strident protectionists, as though we still lived in a world where purely national corporations shipped finished products to other countries in return for different kinds of products.

Instead, the reality is that globalization has created industrial oligopolies, whereby multinational corporations have globalized production to sell products and services to what I call “global regional” markets. Here’s where the argument should be, according to Lind:

More realistic observers would accept a high degree of globalization but differ about how to respond. Here the analogy with the 1900s breaks down, because there is no global federal government to carry out either Rooseveltian or Wilsonian policies toward global corporations. Instead, a neo-Rooseveltian school of thought today might embrace global corporations, where they result from efficiency, but impose conditions on them in return for access to the market of the nation-state, including a degree of in-market production and in-market R&D.

A century ago, champions of the New Freedom sought to protect state and local businesses from national competition — for example, by means of laws against chain stores that threatened local grocers. A neo-Wilsonian or neo-Brandeisian school of thought about the global economy might be more hostile to global enterprises and supply chains, favoring instead government support for largely national corporations — “national champions.”

Essentially, should we be promoting in-market production or “national champions” in the face of a reality that looks nothing like we thought it would a century ago?