Every so often some international conference dealing with world trade and issues revolving around globalisation takes place. Without fail the organised forces of the anti-globalisation movement appear outside the gates. They whine, they protest, they frequently riot and attack. If you ask them they’ll tell you that what they do is justified because they represent the world’s poor.
What is clear is that rarely are the protesters themselves poor. They tend to come from wealthy nations and tend to have been born in families that are more economically advantaged than the people on who’s behalf they claim to speak. Critics of the anti-globalists have long contended that they don’t represent the poor at all but are more in tune with politically fashionable views among the more wealthy of the world. Now an on-going poll of world opinion seems to back this up.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed some 66,000 people in 44 countries. Generally the results have been met with much interest and little anger. But the anti-globalisation movement itself is rather unhappy with the results and with good reason.
The people in the poorest countries turn out to be more supportive of globalisation than those in the wealthiest countries. In South Africa 63% said that globalisation is very good. In the United States only 21% agreed. In Italy the number was only 19%. In contrast, 67% of Nigerians see globalisation as being very good, as do 63% of Kenyans and 64% of Ugandans.
It is true that in all 44 countries a majority of the people said globalisation is either ‘somewhat good’ or ‘very good’. But those who see globalisation as ‘very good’ are significantly more likely to come from poorer nations.
Even when it comes to contentious ‘cultural’ issues, majorities, especially among the young, see globalisation as good. And most agree that they have a better selection of food and medicine as a result. When anti-globalisation forces vent their anger on ‘fast food’ restaurants like McDonald’s they again appear to reflect the values of the world’s economic elites. German’s, by a six-to-one margin, think that fast food has a negative effect on their life. In Canada and the United States significant margins share the German view. But more than seven out of ten, in the Philippines, Vietnam and China, give fast food a thumb’s up.
’Commercialism’ and ‘consumerism’ are other favourite targets of the anti-globalists. And while 63% of the French say both are threats to their culture, the poorest countries on a whole, don’t see it that way. The survey reported that this criticism is not prevalent in the Middle East conflict area.
Majorities in Lebanon (64%), Uzbekistan (57%) and Jordan (54%) say commercialism is no threat to their culture. Pluralities in Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan agree. In Vietnam 66% say commercialism doesn¹t threaten their culture. In Nigeria it is 65% and in Angola it’s 56%.
Multinational corporations are another favourite target of the anti-globalists. Again this is at odds with the views of the world’s poor. The survey reports: In 33 out of 43 countries in which the question was asked, majorities think that foreign corporations have a generally positive influence on their countries. Majorities in every African country surveyed say major foreign companies have a good influence. The survey also notes that: ‘Dislike of foreign firms is mostly limited to people in the major advanced economies of Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada.’ Once again anti-globalist attitudes are more in tune with those of the wealthy and well-off. For instance 93% of the Vietnamese and 78% of South Africans view multi-nationals favourably while only half of Americans and half the French do so. What is particularly ironic is that in every single country surveyed, multinationals have more favourable support than do the anti-globalists themselves.
Support for international markets tends to indicate support for domestic economic freedom as well. A majority in 33 of the countries surveyed agreed that people are better off with free markets. The highest level of support was found among the residents of Vietnam, ostensibly a socialist state, where 95% agreed. And while the United States is often seen as being the most ‘free market’ country in terms of ideological support, the fact is that the free market has higher levels of support in Lebanon, Vietnam, South Korea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa.
The anti-globalists have denounced global capitalism and domestic free markets. They claim to do so on behalf of the world’s poor. But it appears that globally most people disagree with them.
Author Jim Peron is President at Laissez Faire Books. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Free Market Foundation.
FMF Article of the Week / 28 October 2003 - Policy Bulletin / 15 December 2009