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Daniel Akst On Globalization: New York Times Columnist Purports to "Tilt at Conventional Wisdom," But Merely Regurgitates It

August 5, 2001

In his "On the Contrary" column today in The New York Times, Daniel Akst makes an attempt to -- in his own words -- "figuratively" "crush" the anti-globalization protesters.  Akst utilizes a classic three-pronged strategy: make ad hominem attacks; set up and cut down straw men; and, finally, cast the villain as hero.

Daniel Akst: Ad hominem attacks

With sneering condescension, Akst starts off by labeling the protesters "ardent young people" living in the "balm of extended studies lasting well into adulthood," who "arrive by jet" (oh! the horror of that!) and throw "public tantrums."

What does this remind you of?  How about the catcalls to "Grow up" and "Get a job" hurled by construction workers at anti-Vietnam War protesters in the mid-1960's.  Akst's fancier words are no more valid a response to the Genoa protesters than were the construction workers' catcalls back then. (And we all know how unwarranted those protests against the Vietnam War were!)

On a factual level, Akst paints all the protesters with the same broad brush, one applicable, if at all, only to the violent anarchists who the protest leaders themselves wish would go away.  Akst ignores the existence of a broad coalition of "adult" labor unions and human rights and environmental organizations, which comprise the leadership and vast majority of the protesters.

Daniel Akst: Cutting down straw men

Akst next opines that the protesters "have no coherent idea what they're after," "appear unable to even articulate" an economic vision, and "appear to be against the only thing giving the world's poorest nations any hope at all: continued global economic growth."

Perhaps Akst didn't do his homework?  Perhaps Akst formed his opinions of the protesters' goals by listening to 20-second sound bites from CNN?

If Akst had bothered to consult the web sites of any of the organizers of the demonstrations -- for example, the Fifty Years is Enough campaign -- he could have quite easily found out the protesters' goals.  Simply put, the protesters want internationally what most people want within their own country: an open, inclusive and democratic decision-making process; economic fairness for all segments of the population; and protection of the environment.

Moreover, by doing a bit of research, Akst  would have realized that the media-christened term "anti-globalization protesters" must be seen as shorthand. No rational person doubts that the world will become increasingly integrated. These groups make it perfectly clear that they are not trying to stop the process of globalization. They make it perfectly clear that they are not against global economic growth. 

What they are against is the globalization process as presently constituted.  What they are for is a process of globalization and economic growth which adheres to the aforesaid principles.

Daniel Akst: The Villain as Hero

Finally, Akst writes of the protesters that "their ideas are a threat to the very people they seem bent on helping."  It is not the protesters, Akst would have us believe, but rather the G8 nations whose "economic infinitely more plausible and more humane."

Permit me to be a bit skeptical.  Aren't the G8 nations the same folks who imposed upon the world 500 years of slavery and colonialism?  Didn't the formal end of colonialism (if not the lasting effects) come just 40 years ago?  And now these same folks have suddenly decided to reverse course 180 degrees and implement a global economic structure that will help the former colonies and slaves?  I don't think so.

Even more bizarrely, Akst criticizes the system of "huge foreign loans" that was part of a "litany of failures."  But who devised that system of "huge foreign loans?"  None other than the G8 nations after World War II.  This system has led since then to an ever-increasing inequality of wealth and income between the G8 nations and the Third World.

Does he really think that the intention of the G8 nations is to now decrease their share of income and wealth in the world?

Akst's attempted counter-argument would be the "global economic growth" he offers as the answer to the world's suffering poor.  This is, of course, the "rising tide lifts all boats" concept.  Well, Reagan's failed policies showed trickle-down economics wouldn't work domestically in the U.S., and there is no reason to suppose it would work internationally.  Quite the contrary.  The inequality of wealth and income in the United States has vastly increased since 1980.

Of course, even if a rising tide would lift all boats, that wouldn't be the case if the owners of the yachts were surreptitiously blasting underwater holes in the hulls of the smaller boats.  That is exactly what the protesters fear is happening behind the closed doors of Genoa and other such locations.

Akst's column claims it "tilts at conventional business wisdom."  Not in his column today.  He simply repeats the long-established talking points of those who own and control the world's wealth.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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