Resolved: On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction
The Con PositionThe general ideology of "globalization" is based upon neoliberal concepts of economic freedom which pretty much means, get the governments out of the way and let the free market take its natural course and soon we can declare, much like Dave Bowman in the epic, 2001 a Space Odyssey, "something wonderful" is going to happen. The Pro team, like the World Bank, will look to a purported significant reduction in worldwide poverty and toss a whole lot of credit to the process of globalization. The Con researcher will soon realize a completely different reality in which government intervention has increased, multinational corporations are exploiting the cheap international labor pools and liberal environmental regulations, all while the gap between rich and poor expands to unprecedented levels. Given these realities, perhaps one can postulate that globalization has been an unintended side-effect rather than root-cause of some poor finding escape for their dire situations. Indeed, this topic is not slanted Pro, but Con can certainly lose it if they fail to uphold their framework. After all, conceptually, perhaps, the idea of globalization as a kind of bustling farmer's market on the village commons where each sells and trades their goods to every one's mutual benefit has a certain charming appeal and is a wonderful ideal if we can incorporate benefits to those less fortunate. Perhaps we can tolerate a more flawed reality of the market as long as some people are being helped in the present and perhaps even more can be helped in the future if we make some minor corrections. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can declare that even if one person is saved from the dire consequences of abject poverty it portents great possibilities so we have no reason to reject the Pro position. But remember. Always, always remember. We are not in this round to debate whether or not globalization is conceptually good. We have to hold to a comparative framework which has no clear brightline as to what constitutes a "benefit". For the Con position, let's stick to where we've been and where are now and we can leave the debate whether "something wonderful" is going to happen, for another day and another resolution.
Worldwide PovertyFor the Con debate, the adjective, 'worldwide' can potentially cause issues. We can point to certain, very specific examples of a nation which is being steamrolled into the economic stone-age by globalization and Pro will be more than happy to remind the judge to look to worldwide poverty, not isolated cases. Of course, Con can then nitpick the definition and remind the judge that worldwide means everywhere in the world and if a nation is not included then we are one short of worldwide, so we must vote Con. Regardless of how it plays out, it is still a question of "on balance". So if somehow, Pro can convey the idea that at least 51% of the world's poor are benefiting from globalization then it's a slam-dunk for Pro. But it's not so simple. Keep in mind this "on balance" framework is not necessarily a question of numbers only. 'On balance' is a measure of relative weights and in debate, impacts can carry more weight than pie-charts and academic numerical analysis. Think about it. If 75% of the world's poor are on a path to middle-class well-being due to the wonders of globalization, but alas, the remaining 25% are plunging even deeper from moderate to extreme, intractable poverty, that negative impact is really hard to ignore and it will sway judges. Bear in mind, when I say "relative weights" relative means in relation to another and so we can not only claim impacts relative to the Pro but we can also wrap our impacts into a relative internal context. For example, the poor in the U.S. are probably rich relative to a dirt farmer in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa, but relative to the U.S. standard of living, the suffering of the poor in the U.S. can be just as impactful. Having said that, I urge you to remember that impacts will be king for the Con and the way to win the impact debate is to hammer these points:
- The time-frame is now - the situation is dire and getting worse by the second.
- The magnitude is enormous - millions are affected and the numbers are increasing.
- The probably is certain - the empirical evidence proves it.
Time-frame, magnitude and probability are the three pillars of impact debate so make sure your pillars are secure and show how your opponent's pillars are weak.
Here is an example:
The problem of worldwide poverty is dour. The numbers are shocking. “The richest 1 percent of the world’s population receives as much as the poorest 57 percent. More than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day; nearly a billion lack access to clean water; 10 million die each year for lack of the most basic healthcare.” [Soros, 10]. Globalization and the rise of the corporate controlled WTO did not create poverty, but neither have done much to correct the problem, and both may actually be exacerbating the problem.
Couple the above card with empiric data showing the increase in poverty and you establish time-frame, magnitude and probability. Round it out with a claim and some warranted analysis and you have a contention.
A Brief ExplanationIn light of the foregoing, I thought I would take a somewhat unusual tact for the Con position this time and simply present a compendium of contentions. The purpose of this exercise is not to give you a handful of cards with which to slap the opponents. In fact, most of these cards, in and of themselves will not be enough to win anything (in my humble opinion). I think it is safe to say we are more the half way through this 2014-15 NSDA debate season. In fact, in my little corner of the debate world, we are very near the end (excluding the NSDA National Tournament in June). At this point in the season, you should have progressed far enough to understand how to frame your arguments into a claim, warrant, impact structure. If not I refer you to this link. Claims or impacts alone will not win debates, and even when you have all of the basic elements, they still must link. So, I will give you some claims, and maybe some impacts, and I will leave it to you take the few extra steps needed to link it together into a cohesive argument. (Note, the use of ellipses [...] is not permitted under the new NSDA evidence rules. I include them here so these blog pages load faster. You will need to take the entirety of the discussion from the original sources.)
It is true that the course of globalization has, over the past years, increased the average GDP and average income in many countries. But: This research follows those who argue that, in order to get a realistic insight into society it is more important to see the development of actual household situations at the top and bottom deciles of national and global society. This angle of research by means of household surveys is gaining importance since the 1980s only, which is why its findings are not comparably reaching back in time as macroeconomic calculations do. But for the existing period it can be stated that worldwide poverty is remaining at high levels...based upon actual household income, global inequality increased dramatically during the period of “Globalization” and is still at very high levels. This insight is shared by this research and in tune with findings of two of its three host organisation doing this research, who run own research programs on the situation of poor households by surveying developments of income and prices for so-called “basic need baskets”. We are aware of difficulties in comparing poverty levels and situations worldwide and between different countries: while in some sub-Saharan countries persons with a monthly income of US$10 may belong already to the middle class this is about the wage a German worker would obtain within one hour. And social security systems and other publicly financed and maintained assets accessible for the poor are also important for assessing poverty levels. However, if one looks at the de facto situation at household levels it needs to be stated for OECD states and Africa that not only inequality rose, but that the situation of the poor did not improve. [pg. 11-12]
Harrison first notes that most of the evidence on the links between globalization and poverty is indirect. To be sure, as developing countries have become increasingly integrated into the world trading system over the past 20 years, world poverty rates have steadily fallen. Yet little evidence exists to show a clear-cut cause-and-effect relationship between these two phenomena.
Between 1981 and 2001 the percentage of rural people living below the above-mentioned poverty line declined from about 79 per cent to about 27 per cent in China, from about 63 per cent to about 42 per cent in India, and 55 per cent to 11 per cent in Indonesia. But, contrary to repeated assertions in the international financial press, no one has yet convincingly demonstrated that this decline is mainly due to globalization...In China it could instead be, to a large extent, due to internal factors like expansion of infrastructure or the massive 1978 land reforms or policy changes relating to grain procurement prices or the relaxation of restrictions on rural-tourban migration. That the spurt in agricultural growth following the 1978 decollectivization and land reform may be a large factor in the poverty reduction in China is suggested by the fact that a substantial part of the decline in poverty in the last two decades already happened by mid-1980’s, before the big strides in foreign trade or investment...Similarly, rural poverty reduction in India may be attributable to the spread of Green Revolution in agriculture, large anti-poverty programs or social movements in India, and not the trade liberalization of the 1990’s. In Indonesia sensible macro-economic policies, an active rice price stabilization policy, massive investment in rural infrastructure, and the Green Revolution played a substantial role in the large reduction of rural poverty between 1981 and 2001.[pg. 4-5]
Has globalization led to greater inequality or less? This question has greatly exercised the minds of many analysts. The reason why this question has loomed so large in our debates is that, for many ideologues, how we answer this question amounts to a verdict on globalization. I shall however take the view that seeking a verdict on globalization is a hopeless project. First of all, it is too catch-all a term and therefore it can be good and bad, depending on what aspect of it we are looking at, in which period and at which location. When the Spaniards came into contact with the Incas in the early 16th century, that was a step in globalization. And judging by the fact that the native population of the new world rapidly declined under the combined might of the sword and new bacteria, clearly this globalization was not good for the native population.[pg.1362]
The electronics industry came under intense scrutiny in 2010 and at the beginning of 2011. Following fourteen confirmed deaths of young workers at the Foxconn Shenzhen factory throughout 2010, media outlets focused on Chinese working conditions in electronics factories...While electronics factories are seemingly sterile, clean environments, devoid of the usual 'sweatshop‘ characteristics, many factories in the electronics industry actually exhibit hidden sweatshop attributes. These attributes are the results of brand buyer companies squeezing out dollars in order to secure the lowest cost production orders possible. Some of the more notable sweatshop characteristics in Chinese electronics factories include:
- Excessive overtime hours, especially during the peak season
- Forcing workers to work ‗voluntary‘ overtime
- Maintaining an extremely high level of work intensity, by setting the daily production quotas at amounts only the most capable workers can withstand
- Implementing subtle discrimination practices by hiring only the youngest and healthiest candidates.
- Punishing workers for small mistakes and verbally harassing workers.
- Creating a system in which official resignation is nearly impossible and forcing workers to 'voluntarily‘ resign, thereby forfeiting a significant amount of their final wages.
At least since World War II, rural workers in developing countries have been migrating out of agricultural employment. This migration has freed up more workers to contribute toward the production of nonagricultural goods and services, which, in turn, has generally contributed positively to economic growth in developing countries. But this migration out of agriculture also created a new problem: the supply of workers moving out of agriculture was exceeding the demand for these workers in other forms of employment. This pattern led to the formation of a massive pool of ‘‘surplus’’ workers—people who were forced to scramble for a living any way they could. A high proportion of them migrated into the queue for jobs in the manufacturing sectors in developing countries with virtually nothing as an alternative fallback position. These are the conditions under which poor working people might well regard a sweatshop factory job as a better option than any immediately practical alternative. (These issues are developed more fully, with citations, in Pollin, forthcoming.) This pattern has worsened under neoliberal globalization, resulting from the interaction of several factors. First, the reduction or elimination of tariffs on agricultural products has enabled cheap imported grains and other agricultural products to capture a growing share of the developing countries’ markets. This has made it increasingly difficult for small-scale farmers in developing countries to survive in agriculture, which, in turn, has accelerated the migration into the nonagricultural labor market. Neoliberal policies have also brought reductions, if not outright elimination, of agricultural subsidies to smallholders. As conditions have thus worsened for small-scale agricultural producers, their opportunities for finding jobs in manufacturing have also been limited by several factors also associated with neoliberal policies. The first has been the overall decline in economic growth and average incomes in most developing countries in the neoliberal era. As income growth fell, so did the expansion of domestic markets, and thus also the expansion of jobs producing goods for domestic consumers. [pg. 112]
The spread of globalisation has been so rapid and comprehensive that its effects are being felt in the smallest and most remote human communities and natural areas in both developed and undeveloped countries. Indeed, the words 'developed' and 'undeveloped' assume a direction and inevitability of change towards a uniform economic condition that leaves no alternatives. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to accept the assumption that globalisation as an economic system is here to stay, although many of its more profound environmental consequences are likely to prove extremely long-lasting. Immense power always creates an impression of permanence, but a conjunction of formidable limiting factors is even now acting to curb and modify the process of globalisation-perhaps to end it altogether...A profound reduction of genetic diversity in agriculture is now underway. The process has been welldocumented for food plants, and pertains to vegetables, grains and tree crops. Since 1970, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and other transnational corporations have purchased more than 1,000 once-independent seed companies (Fowler and Mooney 1990; Hobbelink 1991; RAFI 1998, 1999, 2001). Loss of germplasm occurs as transnationals drop all but the most profitable seed varieties from their inventories...As globalisation-both the worldwide spread of technologies and the networking of all economies-progresses, livestock breeds also face an increased risk of extinction.
Wrap UpI encourage you to read these sources. Many of them simply have too much information to include in the article which can benefit your position as a Con debater and many will stimulate your thinking to go deeper into the impact debate. There is much, much more I can add, but for now I will turn it over to you. Oh, and for the truly adventurous, take a look at the Navarro 2007 source, referenced below. I did not quote from it in this article but it is rich which material that takes the arguments to perhaps a whole other level.
Bardhan P (2006). Does globalization help or hurt the world's poor?
Scientific American, 294, 84-91. accessed 1/17/2015.
Basu, K. (2006) Globalization, Poverty, and Inequality: What is the Relationship? What Can Be Done?; World Development Vol. 34, No. 8, pp. 1361–1373, 2006; accessed 1/17/2015.
CLW (2012); Tragedies of Globalization: The Truth Behind Electronics Sweatshops; China Laboir Watch; accessed 1/17/2015.
Ehrenfeld, D. (2013); Globalisation: Effects on Biodiversity, Environment and Society; Accessed from Conservation and Society, 1/16/2015.
Holter, J. (2004). The invisible hand: Failing on a global scale. Retrieved from
www.uvm.edu/~gflomenh/VTLAW-EcoEcon/papers/paper3/holter-3.doc; accessed 1/17/2015.
Jörg (2014); Paper 4 of the Introduction to the Project “Tax Justice & Poverty”; Concepts and Context of the Project = Simplified Version; accessed 1/17/2015.
Navarro, V. (2007); NEOLIBERALISM AS A CLASS IDEOLOGY; OR, THE POLITICAL CAUSES OF THE GROWTH OF INEQUALITIES; Globalization, Neoliberalism, Health Inequalities, and Quality of Life; accessed 1/16/2015
NBER (undated) Globalization and Poverty; National Bureau of Economic Research; accessed 1/17/2015.
Pollin, R. (2007); Neoliberal Globalization and the Question of Sweatshop Labor in Developing Countries; Book and Lectures at University Massachusetts; accessed 1/17/2016.