For the better part of the past century, the United States has been the world’s leading advocate of globalization. More than any nation, it has shaped the international architecture of the movement of people, information, goods and services.
We are unquestionably a global world. The United Nations World Tourism Organization reported 1.3 international billion tourist arrivals in 2016. The number of international migrants worldwide topped 244 million, of which
150 million are migrant workers, according to the International Labor Organization. The United States accounts for by far the largest migrant population of 47 million, almost a fifth of the global total.
In recent years, Indians have emerged as one of the greatest beneficiaries of globalization. With 16 million migrants, India boasts the world’s largest diaspora. The Indian American population tops 3.5 million and they are the most affluent group in the country, including Whites. The Indian economy too has soared on the globalization wave, riding on the back of outsourcing for the past two decades.
The election of Donald Trump and the opposition of his administration to international trade deals and the nation’s historical commitment to immigration is a major setback to globalization’s steady march. Globalization has benefited highly educated professionals, who have been blind to the devastation it has wrought in the lives of blue collar workers in the American hinterland. Trump tapped into their anxiety and gave voice to their frustrations.
The benefits of globalization are neither even nor fair. It picks winners and losers. In emerging economies, such as India, foreign imports have wiped out entire industries and traditional crafts. During the past decade alone, the Bajaj scooter and the Ambassador car, which long monopolized their markets, have bitten the dust before imports. The lonely voices of the victims of globalization were muffled, however, by the celebration of its victors.
Trump’s surprising victory is a testament to the pain of the victims of globalization in America. Most countries are too dependent upon international trade and too weak economically to fight back against the forces of international trade. But as the world’s leading economy, the United States has far greater room to resist. We will see how long Trump’s “America First” policy can roll back globalization. But the policies will create a new set of transient winners and losers. As we are learning already, they will inflict acute pain upon immigrants especially.
Ultimately, for all of Trump’s bluster, however, his administration will be but a blip. In the long history of human development, conservatives have resisted, temporarily halted and even reversed progress. But liberalism has always ultimately triumphed. Reactionary forces railed against every cultural, social and economic shift — from the hemline of women skirts to civil rights, women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, abortion rights, social welfare, gay rights, etc., etc. The resistance has slowed and even overturned progress from time to time. But always only in the short term.
Conservatives are on the wrong side of history, however, and always ultimately fail. The reversals that Trump has wrought are but temporary setbacks. Globalists may have been caught unawares, lost this battle and are dispirited for sure. But they are destined to win the war. The dustbin of history is littered with the losses of winners and the wins of losers. Progress just marches on.