Globalization: The Up-Side and the Down-Side

Globalization in the 21st Century has both positive and negative influences for people in different nations, and winners and losers. In these two fast-talking videos, John Green of Crash Course takes a look at both perspectives. In the first video, he looks at mostly the benefits, and follows “the surprisingly complex path of a t-shirt as it criss-crosses the world before coming to rest on your doorstep, and eventually in your dresser. (Unless you’re one of those people who never puts their laundry away and lives out of a laundry basket. If that’s the case, shame on you.) Anyway, the story of the t-shirt and its manufacture in far-flung places like China, Guatemala, and India is a microcosm of what’s going on in the global economy.” Transcript.

In this second video, Green asks if globalization is a net positive for humanity. “While the new global economy has created a lot of wealth, and lifted a lot of people out of poverty, it also has some effects that aren’t so hot. Wealth disparity, rising divorce rates, environmental damage, and new paths for the spread of disease. So does all this outweigh the economic benefits, the innovation, and the relative peace that come with interconnected economies? As usual, the answer is not simple. In this case, we’re living in the middle of the events we’re discussing, so it’s hard to know how it’s going to turn out.” Transcript.

What do you think? Is globalization mostly a force for good or evil?

Related Crash Course lectures on globalization:

  • Why Early Globalization Matters, Crash Course Big History: “Today we’re talking about globalization – a process that goes back hundreds of years, and deeply impacted the collective learning of humanity….We’ll look at printing, potatoes, and plagues…Agricultural surplus gave rise to agrarian states, which then slowly grew in size. So, now we’ve reached the first wave of globalization. Starting with the sustained colonization of the Americas over 500 years ago, continuing with the colonization of Australasia and the Pacific 200 to 300 years ago, humanity once again united into a single global system…With luck, and a lot of wisdom, hopefully the continued story of globalization will avoid the horrific human costs of the past and continue to weave us together in a world of 7 billion, increasingly well-informed and interconnected innovators. It is, after all, what will determine our future, and the outcome of the cosmic tale in our little corner of the Universe.”
  • The Silk Road and Ancient Trade, World History: The first globalization.
  • Income and Wealth Inequality, Economics: “Most economists agree that globalization has helped the world’s poorest people, but it’s also helped the rich a lot more.”
  • Globalization, Trade and Poverty: “Jacob and Adriene will argue that globalization is, in aggregate, good.”
  • The Protestant Reformation As An Act of Globalization.
  • The Catholic Counter-Reformation: “…In addition to reforming Catholicism in Europe, the Jesuits undertook globalizing the faith as a regular part of their mission. Through them, Catholicism truly did become a world religion, reaching India and Japan and Africa and the New World. And this Jesuit activism in establishing global relationships would eventually transform Europe in ways that have only recently gained the attention of historians….Their work created a Eurocentric globalization that ended up going way beyond religion.
  • The Cold War and Consumerism, Computer Science: “The era of computing before companies like Apple and Microsoft existed, and long before anyone Tweeted, Googled, or Ubered….was a formative period, setting the stage for personal computers, the world wide web, self driving cars, virtual reality, and many other topics we’ll get to in the second half of this series. Today, we’re going to step back from circuits and algorithms, and review this influential period. We’ll pay special attention to the historical backdrop of the Cold War, the space race, and the rise of globalization and consumerism.”
  • The Clinton Years or the 1990s, US History: “One of the lessons of history is that good news for someone is almost always bad news for someone else and that was certainly the case with the longest period of economic expansion in American history. Increased use of Information Technology facilitated the globalization of manufacturing and the pressure to manufacture cheaply pushed wages down and encouraged companies to locate factories in countries with lower environmental regulations and also lower wages. That’s great for companies, it’s good for prices, arguably good for workers in the developing world, not so great for the environment or for American workers.”
  • World War II As a War for Resources: “We live today in a thoroughly globalized world, but so did the people of the 1930s, and it’s very interesting to see some of their responses to it. That hyper-nationalist idea that we can take care of ourselves and don’t need help from outside (as long as we annex a lot of territory that’s currently outside of us)–that idea, it is a response to globalization. But I think history shows us that it’s a horrible response. It’s a dangerous business when humans imagine others as less when they think that their land needs to become our land so that we can feed our people, and in that sense, at least, you can’t separate ideology from resource allocation, and as long as we live in a world of finite resources, the potential for conflict will always be there. Knowing that hopefully will help us to avoid it.”
  • Emergence of Global Economy in the 1500s: Spanish Empire, Silver, & Runaway Inflation

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