Mon, 26 Apr 2004

A Quaker Response To Economic Globalization

There is much to disagree with in David Morse's May Friends Journal article on globalization. Let me say only three things. First, that the condition of mankind for hundreds of thousands of years has been poverty, starvation, an early death, and pestilence. Three hundred years ago, capitalism was invented. Some cultures have adopted capitalism, and they have largely escaped those ill effects. One of these is America, where you can own a house with electricity and indoor plumbing, own a car, and two color televisions, and STILL live on public charity because you are poor. Other cultures have adopted capitalism only in part, and they still suffer some. Other cultures know nothing about capitalism either by ignorance or by choice, and they still suffer. I absolutely cannot decry capitalism, and would certainly not seek to deny its benefits to the entire world, as David seems to want. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." It's a quote from a book about some guy. Yes, I mean to call David a false profit.

Second, David makes the case for America being wealthy on the backs of the entire world, and he thinks that's horrible. And yet as I write this, the hottest topic of conversation is offshoring -- a transfer of wealth from America to third world countries through the export of jobs -- and everybody thinks that's horrible. I, myself, accept neither problem definition, and so David's proposed solutions are completely beside the point.

Third, David arrives at several conclusions about economics which if presented to economists would provoke howling laughter. For example, he claims that the WTO is run by capitalists for the benefit of capitalists (which fails to explain the WTO's ruling against the Bush steel tariffs). If he were to propose similar conclusions about physics, say, that all objects fell at different speeds, or cosmology, say, that the earth is flat, or that the sun rotates around the earth, surely everyone would laugh at him. Why can he say these kinds of things about economics and still be taken seriously?

How can an earnest, sincere, and honest Friend like David make these kinds of errors? It seems to me that he is operating on faith not science. Yes, of course, faith is a central element of any religion. However, there are two kinds of faith: faith that something which is unprovable, right or wrong, is right; and faith that something which is provably wrong, is right. We cannot prove whether God exists or does not exist using the scientific method. It is only right to rely on faith in this matter. In other matters of which science can speak, evidence must override faith. The earth is not flat, objects fall at the same speed, the WTO is not in the pocket of capitalists, and capitalism is a good thing for all free people.

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