Speed Up the World, I Want to Get On

Dani Rodrik presents a neat chart tracking attitudes towards globalization in different countries, noting that

in a majority of countries, most people feel economic globalization is growing too rapidly.

That’s hardly surprising, given the way globalization has been blamed for the “evils” of labor-saving machinery and the remorseless expansion of human freedom. By the latter I mean the increase in female labor force participation and aggressive anti-discrimination efforts within countries and the opening of once-closed societies. That first factor, the rise of the “invisible immigrants,” has arguably been more consequential than the latter. This is why North Country is a fascinating and important movie: it says a lot about the subtle self-contradictions of the US left. But I digress.

What surprises, and pleases, me most is about Rodrik’s chart is that majorities in many countries and regions want globalization to move faster. Central America, Brazil, the Philippines, Turkey, Indonesia: consider what an enormous slice of the human population we’re talking about. Yes, Britons want globalization to slow down. Given that Britain has one of the most open economies in the world, that seems reasonable — there are only so many more trails to blaze, for now at least.

On a slightly tangential note, 50 percent of South Koreans want globalization to slow down. In Britain, 55 percent want the same thing. As I found via ConservativeHome,

Britain’s state has grown faster than every other OECD nation from 2000 until 2008, with the solitary exception of Korea. Government spending as a percentage of GDP equalled 37.1% in 2000 and will be an eye-watering 44.8% this year.

That Korea’s state has expanded so mightily makes sense: as they’ve grown more affluent, the redistributionist left has gained the upper hand. Korea has gone through its New Deal. Center-right president-elect Lee Myung-bak basically accepts the new consensus. Britain, meanwhile, has been grasping towards a new equilibrium since what Jim Manzi calls the Twenty Years War transformed that country’s economy. This is not a coincidence. As Rodrik and others have argued many times before, openness tends to beget bigger social insurance programs. And it’s also true that openness helps generate the growth that pays for those social insurance programs.

But there comes a point, and we don’t know where it is exactly, when the two start working at cross-purposes. I tend to think it’s not the size of government that matters but rather how much space government leaves for private initiative and choice. That’s why I consider the mandate issue so vitally important.