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An Interview with ISOP Vice Provost Geoffrey Garrett

An Interview with ISOP Vice Provost Geoffrey Garrett

International Studies' New Leader has interview with Jean Roth, ISOP Public Information Officer

By Jean Roth

In what way does globalization hurt less developed nations and what, if anything, should be done about it?

JR: Since you arrived at UCLA a couple of months ago, we have been hearing some of your vision for international studies at UCLA. However, we haven't had much chance to hear your thoughts about research. Would you tell us about it?

GG: Sure. It will certainly take me a while to get my sea legs for the administrative side of the job, but I hope to continue to be quite active in my research since I think it is important for administrators to be actively involved in relevant academic pursuits.

JR: I see that you have been working in recent years both on the politics and economics of globalization and on European integration. Would you tell us a little about these projects?

GG: I am not sure we have time to discuss both of these, so I will leave European integration until another time. Globalization is obviously everywhere these days, but the more I look, the more I see fascinating and important questions to which we currently don't have very good answers.

I am currently working on several questions but I think the most fundamental one is also the most politically salient: is globalization a rising tide that lifts all boats, as most economists claim, or it is driving an even bigger wedge between haves and have-nots around the world?

JR: This question regarding globalization and inequality is certainly a live one, given the wave of protests from Seattle to Genoa. Where do you stand on this question?

GG: I think that both sides in the debate are right, in part, and wrong in part. On the one hand, President Bush and corporate leaders are right that while globalization benefits multinational firms and the global elite ("Davos man", after those who meet at the World Economic Forum each year), integration into the international economy has also been a boon for middle income countries of Latin America, East Central Europe and East Asia, and that these benefits have generally been shared by working people in these countries as well.

But there is no evidence that globalization has helped very many people in the poorest countries, which are concentrated in Africa. These countries tend not be very integrated into the world economy to begin with, and those that are more "globalized" have, if anything, been hurt by this – I think because they lack the "bootstraps" with which to pull themselves up. They simply don't have the stable political systems, quality education and healthcare, for example, that are essential to succeeding as market economies.

JR: In what way does globalization hurt less developed nations and what, if anything, should be done about it?

GG: The terms on which poor countries currently are internationally integrated tend to be bad for them, replicating and exacerbating old colonial patterns of dependence on agriculture and raw materials while importing more "modern" goods and services from the rest of the world.

As a result, I think development agencies like the World Bank should forget about globalization for a while and concentrate their efforts on more fundamental reforms in poor countries.

JR: Lets turn the question to other end of the spectrum. How do you see the impact of globalization in countries like the US?

GG: Here I think the anti-globalization activists have a point. It seems that the benefits of international integration fall disproportionately on multinational firms and highly educated and highly skilled individuals. Free trade and immigration, for example, do cost less-skilled Americans jobs and wages.

But there are two important caveats to this. On the one hand, I don't think globalization has been the main cause of stagnant living standards among poorer Americans; the computer revolution – and the premium this has put on education – has been considerably more important. On the other hand, activists who try to make common cause with developing countries on an anti-globalization agenda should acknowledge that what is good for them is not necessarily good for developing countries.

As I said before, globalization is good for citizens in developing countries, so long as they have reached the minimal developmental threshold that lets them benefit from participation in global markets.

JR: Are you currently working on any publications we can look forward to?

GG: My major publication goals for this year are to complete a book for WW Norton that will be called Fact and Fiction in the Global Economy and to lay the groundwork for a book I plan to write with George Tsebelis of the UCLA political science department on the emerging political system of the European Union.

I am also finishing up several articles, including one on the early history of the World Trade Organization as a quasi-judicial institution, and one on the political economy of worldwide privatization.

Finally, I hope to begin a working group that will culminate in an edited volume on the diffusion of neo-liberal economic policies around the world.

JR: Thank you.

UCLA International Institute