Recently I was asked to comment on a quote made by Jimmy Carter regarding globalization. Carter stated, “Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing…you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers.This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.”
My initial reaction to Carter’s quote is to regard it as a fallacious statement largely based on his parochial perspective. When I deconstruct the statement I need to point out that globalization per se is not necessarily considered to be a “very nice thing” for many people both rich and poor. Mr. Carter makes a bold sweeping statement that has no basis in fact. Furthermore, insinuating that the Internet, cell phones, and computers are a product of globalization is patently false. Having the privilege of being involved in the technologies that made these products possible enable me to distinctly remember that the retail consumer versions of these products were largely created in the United States after which they rapidly spread into what was then identified as an “international market.” Carter’s statement is ambiguous in that it insinuates that these high-tech products are a manifestation of globalization. The ubiquitousness of computers, cell phones, and the Internet may be influenced by globalization but we should not infer that they are a result of it.
Carter states that globalization does not affect two-thirds of the people in the world is another ambiguous statement that implies that the majority of the people in the world either are unaffected by or cannot participate in fruits of globalization. I admit that there is some probability that many people in the world may not directly enjoy the benefits of globalization but I am unaware of many, if any, countries that are unaffected by it.
Lewis (1999) states, “As the globalization of business brings executives more frequently together, there is a growing realization that if we examine concepts and values, we can take almost nothing for granted” (p.11). In a global economy, we cannot take for granted concepts as fundamental as a contract, business ethics, trust, fiduciary responsibility, and leadership skills. Addressing these concepts on an international basis is intriguing but I doubt if many people would say it was “nice.” The inexpensive retail consumer electronic products and services may seem nice but we should not use that as a basis to infer that globalization in and of itself in nice.
Globalization is a marvelously complex interactive process melding economies, people, and cultures into a phenomenon that I believe we have yet to fully understand.
Lewis, R.D. (1999).When Cultures Collide: Managing successfully across cultures. Nicholas Brealy Publishing Co., London