News & Politics

Globalism is Dead, Long Live...?

Economic globalism is dead, or at least on life support. If the anti-globalist trend succeeds in changing the trajectory of our economic future, what will take its place? The admonition has always been, if we don’t participate in a free-trade global economy, we will suffer economic isolation, and our country will be the poorer for it. But for expanding masses of voters, both in the United States and across Western democracies, we are the poorer for having participated.

For this writer, the devaluation of global economic theory from bright horizon to big-time bust was circuitous, but like millions of lower and middle income workers, I’m ready to put a fork in it.

It was Christmas 2007, and President George W. Bush was entering his last year in office. Portland’s vastly outnumbered but feisty conservative community had remained loyal to Bush 44 in the face of almost constant condemnation from the West Coast leftist establishment. Brainstorm Northwest Magazine was their magazine, the only Republican-friendly periodical in town.

Always on the lookout for writing opportunities, I submitted a holiday humor piece about a talking Dr. Laura Schlessinger doll I’d purchased as a gag gift for my liberal cousin.  They published the piece, and thereafter I received monthly assignments on subjects I knew absolutely nothing about, including women’s professional golf and Larry the Cable Guy’s custom touring bus. I also got to write about politics.

I was exposed to a group of talented, committed professionals who were true believers in globalism’s vision of a one-world economy. I wasn’t convinced that the expanding global economy was a good thing for America, but my cohorts at the magazine were very influential.

Exactly one year after Dr. Laura got me in the door, December 2008, I received an assignment to write about four Oregon companies that were established global players. The angle was to explore the economic and social responsibilities a company doing global business has to the nation, region, state and locality of its operations base.

It was a distraction from the ramifications of Senator John McCain’s crushing loss to Barack Obama that November, and the ramifications of Obama’s victory were sinking in for Oregon’s Bush loyalists. They turned their attention to hope in global trade, and the article was mine to write.

I was put in contact with the CEOs of the following companies: apparel giant Columbia Sportswear, electronic designer Mentor Graphics, biotech innovator HemCon, and metal-bender Medford Fabrication.  Each CEO had good things to say about the benefits of global, essentially borderless economics, and what his corporation was doing to give back to the communities and countries of its origin.

Writing up the piece—with an Ayn Rand leitmotif (what if the best and brightest just withdrew?)—I felt like I was cramming for a term paper, totally in over my head. I was extolling the wonderfulness of globalism against my own best instincts.

Next Page: Why I sensed problems with globalism, and how my instincts turned out to be right.

The executives had talked about how ethical companies are compelled to support and remain loyal to their host countries, but what if some companies were not similarly inclined?  My nationalist tendencies were alerted by the specter of multinational corporations based in the United States holding no allegiance to the nation and its people.

When the December 2008 issue of Brainstorm hit the stands, I saw that my publisher and editor had included some lovely images and custom art with my feature article. “The Globalists” was well-received.  And despite my misgivings, on some level I hoped that the promises of a global marketplace were true, that wide-open trade was good for everyone, that it would all trickle down.

Enacted in 1994, NAFTA didn’t seem to be hampering the boom that construction trades were experiencing in my neck of the woods, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland. There were a few recessionary blips, like the 9/11 downturn, but new foreign companies were expanding in America; they needed facilities, and their employees needed housing. It seemed as if the benefits of global trade were trickling down.

But in the manufacturing heartland, economic globalism as practiced by contemporary society was leaving far more people behind than it was bringing along.

2009 arrived, and the effects of the economic meltdown which became the Great Recession hit full bore. Corporations began reassessing expenditures in light of a suddenly unpredictable horizon.  Brainstorm NW had sold some advertising, but the bulk of support came by way of corporate benefactors. Those same benefactors pulled the plug in March 2009. My last article for the publication was a review of Governor Mike Huckabee’s new show on Fox News.

During the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, the globalist theory of economics underwent its post-NAFTA trial run in the court of public opinion. Just over twenty years later, “elitist” global economics is under increasing fire, from conservatives and progressives alike, for allegedly producing byproducts that have decimated the economic landscape of the country.

For myriad reasons (chiefly job loss and invasive immigration, but also unfair competition, cultural malaise, opportunistic terror, and spurious economic justice theories overlaid with crony capitalism) and for many citizens, the once optimistic vision of globalism has become a big-time bust.

Donald Trump is running against it. Hillary Clinton is yoked by her association with it. Britain has left the European Union over it.

Three fundamental perspectives inhabit the debate on globalism these days; those who still believe, either fervently or otherwise, those who never believed, who believed Pat Buchanan instead, and those who did believe, and are now damn mad and ready to jettison the entire concept.

For the record, the good folks from Brainstorm NW are still very much engaged in public policy debate, still effectively presenting conservative perspectives through various media and services. Three of the four companies included in the article have weathered all storms and are going strong. The talking Laura Schlessinger doll was returned to me by my liberal cousin, and it still works fine (sample phrase: “Is this the hill you want to die on?”).

Global economic theory hasn’t fared as well. The perils of promoting globalism have become as real as the latest round of stateside layoffs, or the next corporate outmigration.  Might as well try serving Trump steaks at La Raza’s annual barbeque.