University Professor Jagdish Bhagwati is known for his advocacy of freer trade and economic globalization. His 2004 book, In Defense of Globalization, has been re-released, complete with a new afterword detailing the evolution of the arguments originally presented for and against economic globalization. On Friday, professor Bhagwati gave the following interview:
Spectator: On Monday, Oct. 22, there will be a panel titled “Is American Anxiety over Globalization Mistaken?” where the new edition of your book In Defense of Globalization will be launched. Can you give me a little sound bite on what this event will be like?
Jagdish Bhagwati: I think currently in America there is a lot of anxiety in the working classes. I think part of the problem has been that lots has been blamed on trade in particular. Our idea is to talk about the anxiety and decide if it has something or nothing to do with globalization.
Spec: I read that you are working on illegal immigration reform in the U.S. What can you tell me about that? What do you think the U.S. policy on immigration should be?
JB: I had predicted in op-ed articles on the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that it would fail in removing illegals from our midst, as its supporters wanted to do. None of it worked, predictably. The way forward is to deep-six the current approach, inherited from the 1986 IRCA act, which pretends that somehow we can eliminate the illegals from our midst.
Spec: Why do you suppose globalization gets such a negative branding by the media? Is it that nagging fear again? What are the most commonly-held misconceptions about globalization?
JB: That is true mostly in the U.S. media which is always looking for hype. At least three times in the last 20 years, the U.S. media have announced the death of consensus among economists on free trade. But the free-trade consensus is alive and well.
Spec: What do you think about professor [Jeffrey] Sachs’ argument for a dramatic increase in foreign aid? Do you side with [NYU economics professor William] Easterly in the debate?
JB: My reaction is: plague on both your houses! Professor Rosenstein-Rodan, who advised John F. Kennedy on foreign aid, taught me about “absorptive capacity”—that we should ensure that aid is absorbed productively. This is not just a moral requirement—few would want aid to be given just as a duty but with disregard to its consequences. In the 1960s and 1970s, I participated on the huge discontent on the left about how aid was either a malign-intent way of keeping neocolonial control of the decolonized lands, or that it unwittingly led to dependence in various ways: by reducing domestic savings, by hurting domestic agriculture through supply of foreign aid, and argued that, on balance, aid had been useful in countries like India. I doubt professor Sachs ever pays attention to such sophisticated objections, always dismissing those who raise them as if they were wicked conservatives with horns and no brains. But Easterly is equally wrong in arguing that aid hardly works.
Spec: In chapter three of your book, you discuss the coastal shrimp farming in India ruining the mangroves. How can globalization and environmental stewardship be fostered to go hand-in-hand?
JB: My view is primarily that, traditionally, we didn’t value the environment and that is the real problem. We don’t have enough policies in place, and trade could make us put policies in place. One of my environmentalist friends said, “International trade is bad, the flowers coming from Mali are being sold in London, and the transportation ruins the environment.” Somebody in England did a study showing that if you grew them in Denmark in their greenhouses, the carbon dioxide emissions would be greater, causing more damage for not growing them in Africa. The argument from that is not to attach conclusions for specific activities, and it is also the argument for carbon tax, because someone doing carbon dioxide emissions will pay for it. It will reduce emissions because they will be shouldering the cost.
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