Monday, December 19, 2011


By Roger Busbice

“Globalisation” is the term now used to describe what some optimists call a “coming together” or “practical unification” of the world in regard to economic systems, transportation, communication, electronic technology, education, and, to an unprecedented degree, political “cooperation”.  It implies shared values in the area of economic growth, education, environmental concern, and human rights.  Theoretically, globalisation benefits wealthy countries because it creates new markets and supplies natural resources for them and benefits poor countries because it provides them increased employment and modernisation.  The reality is decidedly different.

Globalisation has been made possible by a world-wide acceptance of “unbridled free trade” as the planet's governing economic principle and, importantly, by the continuing urbanization of human society.  Significantly, globalisation has benefited from the revolution in electronic technology and communications.  The internet, and associated resources, has enabled corporate businessmen, investment bankers, and upwardly-mobile politicians in London, New York, or Sao Paulo to communicate instantly with their counter-parts in Beijing, Tokyo, or Nairobi.  For the first time in human history, individuals, companies, and governments can act and react to economic developments and crises as soon as they occur.  Whether these crises are genuine or whether they are self-generating and self-serving is another question.

Globalisation has resulted in the creation and expansion of massive corporations and the “culture of prosperity and expectation”.  It has supposedly helped establish an awareness of environmental problems and dangers (many of which are a direct result of globalisation itself); and an awareness of basic human rights pertaining to employment, marriage, political participation, and civic responsibility.  It has brought millions of people in developing countries into an ever-expanding workforce that, while temporarily increasing prosperity in the Third World, has actually embraced crime, indifference, and authoritarianism.  Again, reality interferes with suppositions:  Globalisation leads not to environmental concern or human rights but to spoilage and slavery.

Because the origin of globalisation lies in large-scale and unlimited corporate-dominated “free trade”, international agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which unites the United States, Canada, and Mexico economically; the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) which may similarly unite the United States with impoverished Central American republics in basic economic matters; the European Union (EU) which has gone beyond economic cooperation into the realm of possible, and disastrous, political unification; and many other similar “associations” throughout the world have become prominent.  These power-groupings have, in fact, proved to be of greater benefit to their poorer members than to the wealthier nations which have traditionally guided the association process.  Worldwide, many once-poor countries, such as China and India, are becoming prosperous and powerful because of the economic security created by the development of technology-based businesses and government-protected corporations.  The World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank provide uniform rules, regulations, and requirements which control international and inter-governmental loans and financial obligations.  These economic organizations and institutions are determined to enhance, and exploit, the poorer nations at the expense of nations in the First World.  They boast that a “leveling” of the world economy will bring equality and mutual wealth while ignoring the obvious results of mega-capitalism in countries where governments are routinely bought by corporations, and of state socialism where dictatorial government is, in fact, the corporation (1).

It is, indeed, painfully obvious that globalisation inevitably leads to a soul-destructive urbanisation which weakens traditional rural societies, threatens environmental stability, and attacks the fundamental values of western civilisation.  Small towns and farms fall victim to the growth of corporations and the inevitable spread of poisoned cities and bland materialistic suburbs.  Giant super-stores replace “Mom and Pop” groceries and “development” destroys fields, forests, and historic landmarks. Tradition is swept aside in the name of progress.  As a “progressive” character in Saul Bellow's novel Mr. Sammler's Planet indicates, “Roots are a peasant concept.  Roots are going to disappear”(2).  In a way, globalisation could be described as a war of the imagined future against the stability of the past, or more simply, a war of the mechanised and soulless city against the countryside.

The strongest opposition to globalisation naturally comes from those who sense they have the most to lose:  Farmers, blue-collar workers, small town merchants, and social and religious traditionalists all know that their world of family, church, and community—and the “sense of place” it has provided—is likely to be destroyed, or greatly weakened, in the name of growth and greed.  In France, farmers destroy a fast-food restaurant because they believe it to be a symbol of the globalised economy which threatens them; in the United States, factory workers justifiably worry about their jobs and their families as industries abandon their own employees and shift operations to Mexico; in Russia, voters endorse authoritarian rulers, often former communists, who promise state-sponsored security rather than the competition of the genuine home-oriented free market; and in Greece  radical anarchists seek the destruction of a society which they equate with corporate indifference (3).

Perhaps the most prescient statements  regarding the perils of globalisation can be found in the writings of the early twentieth century Catholic Distributists who, in large part, based their beliefs on the actual, not the supposed, words of the great free enterprise economists such as Adam Smith and the dedicated Christian advocates of social justice such as Pope Leo XIII:  Every living soul should seek to own real property—land, a house, or even, nowadays, a condominium—and should seek to be truly part of a positive community where trees, gardens, shared beliefs, and shared traditions abound and learning is encouraged (4).  Fairness, hard work, faith, and honesty, not the accumulation of excessive wealth, should ideally be the governing principles.  Individual ownership of property, and its proper stewardship, would mean that prosperity could be “distributed” within the community without creating anonymous or indifferent corporations.  Service to God, not wealth, would and should be the ultimate goal (5).

Citizens of the community should acknowledge the sacred stewardship of the land and, if possible, work on, or inside, their own property, citizens should buy needed goods and services from the small businessmen and businesswomen in their own community, and educators and members of the clergy should defend and promote the values and the traditions of both the Founding Fathers of the Republic and the early Church Fathers (but, of course, within the framework of the Constitution in this country).  Economic transactions should be small enough to be comprehensible and should be an exercise in cooperation with citizens supporting each other through genuine person-to-person free enterprise (6).  In such a community, citizens in every walk of life should be acquainted with one another:  whether teachers, policemen, doctors, or clergymen; whether craftsmen, labourers, or farmers. For communion is the goal, not isolation.  The “culture of prosperity” would be replaced by a culture of quiet contentment.  The Distributists believed that no human being should want, or seek, the paternal hand of government to provide for him or her, nor should any human being desire wealth beyond his or her actual needs or the appropriate comfort level of his or her family.  Most importantly, such a society would be based on tradition and universal natural rights, not on coercion.

The Distributists and their allies included G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Peter Maurin, Englebert Dollfuss, as well as the Southern Agrarian writers such as Donald Davidson and Andrew Lytle, and a host of others.  They believed that “small is beautiful” as a concept is not a fad or a cliché but a way of life; that true independence means true liberty; and that technology should not govern but should serve.  Neither Right nor Left, it is a simple philosophy, simply capable of saving the world.


1.  Wallach, Lori and Michelle Sforza.  The WTO:  Five Years of Reasons to Resist Corporate Globalization, Seven Stories Press, 1999 (pp. 13-15)
2.  Bellow, Saul.  Mr. Sammler's Planet, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1970 (p. 224)
3.  Georgakas, Dan.  “Hell No, We Won't Pay:  Uprisings in Greece”, Fifth Estate, Fall, 2011 (pp. 29-30, 32)
4.  Belloc, Hilaire.  The Essential Belloc, St. Benedict Press, 2010 (pp. 145-147, 151, 153)
5.  Belloc. Ibid. (pp. 156-160.)
6.  FINCA fund-raising letter, Fall, 2011 promoting low-cost loans to poor, would-be entrepreneurs

Roger Busbice, a lifelong educator and historian, served as the Archivist and Historian of Louisiana's Old State Capitol from 1992 through 1995.  He was one of the founders and directors of Louisiana's independent teachers' organization and he has been active in conservative and constitutionalist efforts for more than forty years.  The author of numerous articles, he is currently an instructor of history for the LSU Lagniappe Program.

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