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
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
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
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
Daniel Akst: Cutting down
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
Daniel Akst: The Villain
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 vision...is
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?
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.