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Thread: How Globalization Saved the World and Damned the West

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    How Globalization Saved the World and Damned the West

    How Globalization Saved the World and Damned the West

    A dispatch from Davos on the verge of a nervous breakdown


    The World Economic Forum in Davos has a reputation for being a kind of alpine Burning Man, except the thing being sacrificially flambéed is a sense of modesty. Attendance may seem like a dangerous proposition in these populist times. But last month, professional duty and morbid curiosity led me to board a plane to Switzerland. Besides, Davos felt like an occasion to buttonhole some experts on a question that had been on my mind: If the world is getting better, why does everything feel so terrible?

    The values of free thinking, free markets, and free trade have led to a historic reduction in global poverty, ever-rising life expectancy, and ascending IQ levels. Undernourishment and maternal deaths are both down more than 40 percent since 1990. “All this has happened chiefly because countries—from China to India to Ethiopia—have adopted more market-friendly policies,” the CNN host Fareed Zakaria wrote in The Washington Post.

    If these statistics were the only thing you knew about the world, you would be shocked to read just about any news article about the state of Western democracy. In country after country, in Europe and in the Americas, nativist movements are gaining power by opposing the values of openness and empiricism. These nativists have often thrived by arguing that free markets and globalization have impoverished the middle class and destroyed all sense of national identity or sovereignty.

    Global capitalism appears to be saving the world and destroying the West, at the same time. I went to Davos to see whether I could resolve the paradox or, in failing to do so, at least drown my ignorance in hot chocolate.

    My first lesson, however, wasn’t in global economics, but local real estate. A month before my trip, there was no available hotel room within three hours of the conference hub. Davos, a tiny Swiss village, doesn’t have enough space for WEF’s thousands of attendees. Hotels along the town’s main artery, the Promenade, jack up their rates to levels only corporate executives or multimillionaires can afford. This forces the conference’s ordinary joes either to settle in nearby villages connected by train or (as in my case) to stuff themselves into basements, bunks, and pullout couches.

    This might sound like an irrelevant aside, but for those in the market for a globalization metaphor, it may be impossible to beat: At a conference symbolizing the promise of capitalism, every non-plutocrat is fighting for scraps.
    “Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”

    ~ Hannah Arendt

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    Just once, I would like the person that writes an article like this to explain, using actual numbers, how much these ideas will cost and who will pay for them.

    Mark
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    every non-plutocrat is fighting for scraps.
    Doubtful that non-plutocrat is begging in the street.

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