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Globalisation: a curse or a blessing?

One of the characteristics shared by a majority of Brexiteers and Trump supporters is the view that globalisation is ‘a force for ill’.  ComRes published a poll this week that explored the roots of this thinking. They found this negativity linked to a belief that globalisation has pushed wages lower for British workers, led to fewer jobs being created and greater inequality between rich and poor. So what is globalisation and should we resist its influence?

Globalisation is the process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. It is the consequence of developments in technology, economics and philosophy which have major implications for politics and culture. We experience this personally in the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the computers we use, many of which originate in other countries. Modern transport and communications link us to people, places and ideas from across the world and create global trade patterns. It has also changed the manner in which politics is done.

Internationally, politics is no longer just between nation states. Nowadays bodies such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International are global campaigners and NGOs such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the OECD, and IMF have more clout than many nation states. The UN and the EU have special status and relief agencies are big players in crisis situations. Together they reflect a global civil society because an increasing number of decisions are being made at a global level. The Paris Climate Change conference (Cop21) was a classic example, where nation states, NGOs and campaigners slugged it out together to produce an agreement to reduce global warming.

Globalisation is bound up with the theory of free-trade market capitalism. Those who think globalisation is a bad thing obviously favour a more protectionist approach to trade. It is true that wage rates in some sectors have been flat and also our coal and steel industries have been badly hit by cheaper foreign imports so it is understandable that there will be some dissatisfaction when they see bankers and others taking home large bonuses. That frustration is compounded by the fact that all of the parties favour free trade.

The Government is definitely committed to free trade and the International Trade Secretary has orders to find new markets and trade partners across the world to replace the E.U. single market. Protectionism would surely cause job losses and a weakening of the pound as a global currency.  The global financial system is a reality and no significant country stands outside it. The same applies to our engagement with the IMF, World Bank and the WTO. The latter may be failing the poorer nations but it is not in Britain’s interest to become one of them.

Christians have mixed thoughts about globalisation. If it is motivated by greed and selfish ambition like that of the Babel incident in Genesis it would be wrong but it would not be if it is motivated by a vision of all peoples uniting in worship of our Creator God. 40% of professing Christians live in poor countries and if globalisation traps them in poverty we should challenge that. Helping them to develop adequate education and health services would be a positive expression of globalism. Withdrawing into a ‘little Britain’ pre-occupied with self-interest is not a legitimate Christian option.

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