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Globalization vs Westernization, And the Good vs the Bad

Today I was sorting through recent opinions on income disparity. Much debate centers around whether so much attention should be paid to income disparities between countries or within countries. Regions face increasing inequities among their people with rural China being a great example. A recent article in the Economist also illustrated the increasing inequality within the United States.

In my readings I came across Harvard Economics professor Amartya Sen’s 2002 discussion of “How To Judge Globalism”. Here is an extract of a longer article from American Prospect:

“(T)he confounding of globalization with Westernization is not only ahistorical, it also distracts attention from the many potential benefits of global integration. Globalization is a historical process that has offered an abundance of opportunities and rewards in the past and continues to do so today. The very existence of potentially large benefits makes the question of fairness in sharing the benefits of globalization so critically important.

The central issue of contention is not globalization itself, nor is it the use of the market as an institution, but the inequity in the overall balance of institutional arrangements–which produces very unequal sharing of the benefits of globalization. The question is not just whether the poor, too, gain something from globalization, but whether they get a fair share and a fair opportunity. There is an urgent need for reforming institutional arrangements–in addition to national ones–in order to overcome both the errors of omission and those of commission that tend to give the poor across the world such limited opportunities. Globalization deserves a reasoned defense, but it also needs reform”.

As I am observing in my income distribution readings, the question is no longer about whether globalization is good or evil, we all realize it is here and woven into our day to day lives, but the issue of income and benefit distribution is at the heart of many current inequity debates. Which regional populations (often industry-intensive urban populations are given more attention than their rural brethren) are seeing the benefits of globalization to an uneven extent, and what can be done to rebalance the share and to enable more equal opportunities. The answer is still out there.

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