Tuesday, January 6, 2015

PF Feb 2015 - Economic Globalization - Introduction and Definitions

Resolved: On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction.


This is potentially a very interesting topic.  Given that economic globalization refers to a kind of economic interdependency between nations, we could explode the grounds of debate and discuss a myriad of contentions including the impact of globalization on security, the impact on health, the impact on the environment, the impact on the balance of power and world politics, the impact on the role or multinational corporations on world politics, and of course, the impact on worldwide poverty.  The resolution founders have chosen to limit the grounds to the impact on worldwide poverty.  So, while Pro will be laying out a case which very pragmatically describes how globalization is the single most important mechanism in the history of the universe to solve poverty, and reap all of its enormous inherent advantages; Con may very well explode the debate with every single negative impact every witnessed as a result of globalization, so long as it somehow links to poverty.  After all, what good is reducing poverty if it means the world is more polluted, there are even less fossil fuels to go around, new and exotic diseases are more easily spread, and so on, ad-infinitum. Conversely, the Pro can take a similar route and link a plethora of potential benefits to poverty. After all, the poor are helped when the chances or war are reduced, or when infrastructure is created, or when services are upgraded and personal wealth increases. Whew...just how much work will the well-prepared debaters have to do to turn all these potential impacts?

Defining the Resolution

We need to look at the intent and meaning of the resolution in order to extract the topical grounds.

On balance
This is common debate vernacular which in essence, instructs the debaters and judges to assign relative weights to benefits and harms and then determine which way the balance beam tilts.  By stating, on balance, there is an implicit acknowledgement that both sides have merit. In other words, we admit there are harms and there are benefits but when we objectively examine these claims on the basis of some kind of comparative framework, we will find that one side's impacts outweigh the other side's impacts. We just need to be aware of what it is we need to weigh. More on this in a future post.

economic globalization
When a thing is globalized it is extended throughout the world. Now in terms of economies, internally, each nation has its own economy which we can loosely define as a system for producing and consuming goods and services. When the system of producing and consuming extends across the border of other countries and the two economies become interdependent, the process of globalization increases.

Shangquan 2000:
Economic globalization refers to the increasing interdependence of world economies as a result of the growing scale of cross-border trade of commodities and services, flow of international capital and wide and rapid spread of technologies. It reflects the continuing expansion and mutual integration of market frontiers, and is an irreversible trend for the economic development in the whole world at the turn of the millennium. The rapid growing significance of information in all types of productive activities and marketization are the two major driving forces for economic globalization. In other words, the fast globalization of the world’s economies in recent years is largely based on the rapid development of science and technologies, has resulted from the environment in which market economic system has been fast spreading throughout the world, and has developed on the basis of increasing cross-border division of labor that has been penetrating down to the level of production chains within enterprises of different countries. [page 1]

There are a lot prerequisites to allowing economies to interconnect.  There needs to be peace, trade agreements, political agreements, agreements on the value of goods and services, communication between the parties, an infrastructure for delivering good and services.  And, as stated by the following author one cannot underestimate the impact of multinational corporations.

Prakash 1999:
There is much confusion on what exactly globalization is, how to measure it, who caused it, and how it may impact human existence. I propose the following definition of economic globalization: it is a set of processes leading to cross-border integration of factor, intermediate products, and final products markets along with an increasing salience of multinational corporations in economic activity. Three aspects of this definition are noteworthy. First, globalization is best viewed as a set of processes and not as an end state. Second, cross-border economic integration now spans products and commodities that are at various stages of the value-addition processes. Third, multinational corporations are the main agents of economic integration. In fact, I would submit that the main difference between globalization now and the previous phases of economic integration is the increasing role of multinational corporations.[page 1]

I suppose it is also important to note, both sides must have something to gain which outweighs any inherent difficulties or harms. Therefore, if we acknowledge that economic globalization is taking place, we acknowledge that the parties involved presumably have something to gain from the exchange.

Remember, in the context of this resolution, benefits is a verb and not a noun. So if we can define the noun, benefits, as good or helpful outcomes, we could describe the verb, benefits, as actions which result in good or helpful outcomes. Now that may not seem significant and on many levels it is not so significant except to say that if there is an action, there must be an agent to take the action and in this case it is economic globalization which takes the actions which result in good outcomes.  Based on these semantics, Con can potentially constrain Pro to only allow direct links between good outcomes and economic globalization.  In other words, Pro cannot claim that security, or political stability, or other kinds of "agents" which produce good outcomes should be evaluated in the debate. However, I do think it will be a very, very difficult tactic for Con to undertake.

One can easily understand that worldwide means extending throughout the world. I think it would be silly to take this term too literally and make the claim there are many places, like, uh mm, North Korea or Somalia which have not benefited so therefore we should vote Con. For me it is not unreasonable to limit the discussion to the countries throughout the world which are actively engaged in legitimate economic exchange with other other countries, rather than isolated economies cut-off by economic sanctions or those which are perhaps considered, failing states. On the other hand, I think Con can make very compelling arguments that in some cases, these isolated or failed states are in some ways the result of economic globalization.

poverty reduction
Poverty is one of those things that is hard to define but you pretty much know it when you see it.  Technically, we can say poverty is a state of being extremely poor or living below some socially accepted standard of living.  Therefore, poverty is a very difficult standard to globalize except in the most general of terms. So, if we can't sufficiently define what poverty is, how do we know if it is reduced? well, let's start with the idea that reduced means fewer people are in the condition we describe as "in poverty" and for the determination of what is the socially accepted standard of living we must consider these standards on a case by case basis relative to the local conditions of a single nation or state or city or community. Generally speaking we can say if one can not adequately provide sustenance for oneself or family, or one may die unnecessarily or prematurely due to a lack of provisions widely available to other members of the society, then one is living in poverty.

Barder 2009:
There is a healthy debate about how to achieve poverty reduction in developing countries, but not enough discussion of what we mean by “poverty reduction.” “Poverty reduction” is often used as a short-hand for promoting economic growth that will permanently lift as many people as possible over a poverty line. But there are many different objectives that are consistent with “poverty reduction,” and we have to make choices between them. There are trade-offs between tackling current and future poverty, between helping as many poor people as possible and focusing on those in chronic poverty, and between measures that tackle the causes of poverty and those which deal with the symptoms.[Page 1]

The Barder quotation is interesting because we can understand how economic globalization in the form of economic development (investing in infrastructure, resource extraction, land development, etc.) impacts developing countries. However this debate does not require us to focus solely on developing countries.  It is fair to ask, what has been the impact of globalization on those living in poverty in fully developed nations?  Is there something inherent in economic globalization which further entrenches and constrains the poor people living in developed nations?

Another source describes poverty as being incapable of achieving certain minimal standards regardless of personal income.

Kakwani 2006:
According to the capability approach, an individual is defined as poor if he or she lacks basic capabilities. What ought these basic capabilities to be? An answer to this question requires value judgments, which must reflect appropriately assessed social priorities. While, there is no universal agreement on what these basic capabilities are, it may still be possible to agree on some basic capabilities. For example, if a person is not able to be wellnourished, adequately clothed and sheltered, and not able to avoid preventable morbidity, then he or she can be classified as deprived of basic capabilities. Those capabilities that relate to health, education, shelter, clothing, nutrition and clean water can reasonably be regarded as capabilities that we can agree are basic.[page 1]

What it Means

For most of you, this debate will focus on a fairly narrow examination of benefits and harms arising from economic globalization so I would expect you to be filling your files with evidence supporting either point of view.  The fascinating and wide-open potential debate will look at the many advantages and disadvantages of economic globalization and their impacts on the world's poor.  In these debates, time frame will play a role because while in the short-term, economic globalization may appear to be the cure for poverty, in the long term it could lead to a major downturn in fortunes. Conversely, while some may argue the near-term benefits of globalization are marginal at best, the long-term future is bright for those most affected by substandard living conditions. No matter how deeply you want to take it, have fun. I think this is going to be a memorable topic which you will think about often in the coming years.

The Pro position is here.


Barder, O.; What is poverty reduction?; Working Paper 179; Center for Global Development; April 2009; accessed 1/5/2014.

Kakwani, N.; what is poverty?; Internation Poverty Center, United Nations Development Programme; Sep 2006; No. 22; accessed 1/5/2014.

Prakash, A.; overnance and Economic Globalization: Continuities and Discontinuities; Paper presented to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 30, 1999; accessed 1/5/2014.

Shangquan, G.; Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks and Risk Prevention; CDP Backround Paper No. 1; United Nations Committee for Development Policy; accessed 1/5/2014


  1. Wonderful, thank you!



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