A new interconnected world
Globalist Perspective > Global Trade
New President, Different World

By Edward Gresser

During the last decade, little has been accomplished in terms of trade policy. However, global trade has not slowed. In fact, far from it. As Edward Gresser explains in this Globalist Perspective, new technology for importing and exporting goods — and for sharing information — has caused globalization to increase at a dizzying pace.

As our 44th President of the United States prepares to take office, the financial winds are howling and trade policy has been sluggish for a decade. Since 2001, 150 governments have been debating the WTO’s Doha Round in Geneva, with some progress — but no resolution.

Over the same period, the U.S. Congress has debated a series of free trade agreements — although much smaller ones, together covering just 5% of U.S. world trade. Even so, it has deferred judgment on the three most recent.

Surface storms

But the sluggishness of trade policy seems to have meant little. Instead of slowing in sequence, globalization seems to be accelerating. To choose a simple measure, trade — the imports and exports of goods and services — has jumped from 26% to 32% of U.S. GDP. Worldwide, trade has risen from 50% to nearly 70% of world GDP.

The global economy President-elect Barack Obama inherits looks much more “connected” and “webbed” than the one George W. Bush found in 2000.

And at deeper levels, the effectiveness of tariff systems and preferential agreements seems to be eroding. To choose our largest and most controversial agreement, for example, the share of NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico has dropped from 29% to 25% of U.S. imports in this decade.

So in some metaphorical sense, trade policy debates seem to have been the storms and waves on the surface of the ocean. They are flashy, controversial and getting lots of attention, but less meaningful than the ocean currents flowing beneath.

These currents, the main drivers of global integration in this first decade of the 21st century, turn out not to be the decisions of government. Rather, they are structural trends in communications technology, logistics industries and demographics.

A sample of each:

Ideas: Each year, tens of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable and dozens of communications satellites click on. Combined with steady growth in computing power, they mean lower communication costs at a higher quality. A simple index is the cost of an international phone call — it has dropped by over 80% since 2000, after a 50% fall in the 1990s and a 25% drop in the 1980s. Here one can see the foundation of the global services economy.

Things: In the physical world, shipping and air-freight match the virtual world’s computers, cables and satellites by cutting the cost of moving things around. Here the simple index is the growth of the world’s container-ship fleet.

Trade policy debates are the storms and waves on the surface of the ocean — but less meaningful than the ocean currents flowing beneath.

In the year 2000, the fleet totaled 2,433 ships with an average capacity of 1,700 20-foot containers. This year there are 4,276 ships with an average capacity of over 2,500 containers, meaning capacity has more than doubled — after doubling in the 1980s, and more than doubling in the 1990s.

Combined with air freight, port improvements and express delivery, this has made manufacturing trade faster, cheaper and more precise, encouraging the global supply webs that are replacing national industry and country-to-country exchange of finished goods.

People: Cross-border migration gets attention and controversy, but internal migration from land to town is the main event. Since 2000, the world’s cities have grown by 550 million people — after adding 600 million in the 1990s and 450 million in the 1980s. (For context, the world’s cross-border migrant population is 200 million.)

China’s urban population alone has jumped from 400 million to 550 million since 2000. The vast new urban populations are the men and women driving growth and industrialization in China and other big developing countries.

As they move from farms to factories, restaurants, beauty salons, construction projects, research parks and advertising agencies, these countries’ share of the world economy is rising fast — and the world’s globalized labor pool grows.

A new era

Together these trends mean the cost of moving things — especially weightless services, but also cars, potato chips, metals, shirts, TV sets and other physical goods — is steadily falling.

The sluggishness of trade policy seems to have meant little. Instead of slowing, globalization seems to be accelerating.

The operation of multinational supply chains and webs is becoming easier, making older preferential agreements less attractive. And the pool of urban entrepreneurs, workers, scientists, artists and shoppers available to participate in the world economy grows by about 70 million a year.

Yes, trade policy has moved slowly. But as this five-issue table below shows, the global economy President-elect Barack Obama nonetheless inherits looks much more “connected” and “webbed” than the one George W. Bush found in 2000, and vastly different than those Bill Clinton found in 1992 and Ronald Reagan met in 1980.

Obama’s Webbed Economy

UK doctor admitted “I am a terrorist”

Doctor admits he is ‘a terrorist’

Dr Bilal Abdulla

Dr Abdulla denies trying to kill or injure anyone through car bomb attacks

An NHS doctor accused of attempted car bombings in London and at Glasgow Airport has admitted that according to English law he is a terrorist.

Bilal Abdulla, 29, is alleged to have crashed into the airport in a Jeep laden with petrol and gas canisters.

But he told a jury he never wanted to kill or injure anyone.

Dr Abdulla, from Paisley, and Dr Mohammed Asha, 27, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, deny conspiracies to murder and to cause explosions.

The defence has said that Dr Abdulla and friend Kafeel Ahmed, 28, wanted to highlight the plight of people in Iraq and Afghanistan with a series of incendiary device attacks in June 2007.

Dr Asha is accused of supplying them with cash and advice.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court heard Dr Abdulla had told police in Scotland “something along those lines” that he was a terrorist shortly after being arrested.

From day one – we said we will not kill or injure any innocent person.
Dr Bilal Abdulla

Dr Abdulla told the court: “Everyone was saying you are a terrorist, you are arrested under the Terrorism Act and so forth.

“That is my case in a nutshell. I am told I am a terrorist, but is your government not a terrorist, is your army not a terrorist?

“By the definition of the Act, according to English law, yes. That is my aim to change opinion using violence, using fire devices.”

Dr Abdulla told the jury that after attacks on London’s West End had failed, he planned to flee to Iraq, via Turkey, because it would be “much easier to disappear” in a lawless country.

But as he approached the airport, Ahmed suddenly swerved the Jeep into the terminal building without warning.

Petrol bombs

“He drove through the barrier and I got alarmed and I shouted ‘What are you doing, what is happening?’,” said Dr Abdulla.

“I had never seen Kafeel’s face like that in my life. He was determined, his foot was on the accelerator and he did not respond to me at all.”

Dr Abdulla admitted throwing petrol bombs as he got out of the burning vehicle. But he claimed he had tossed them away to protect himself after Ahmed had passed one to him, accidentally lighting the others in the process.

He said he could not recall exactly what happened afterwards, adding: “I know that I had struggled with people, I received punches and I punched back.”

Ahmed, an Indian engineering student, died one month after the attack from critical burns after dousing himself in petrol.

Dr Abdulla told the court: “From day one, we said we will not kill or injure any innocent person.

“This incident, if it was to kill people or cause an explosion, we would not have done it that way. It looks very clumsy.”

The trial continues.

What We Are Becoming

By: Wesley J. Smith
The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network

I am having trouble keeping up: Every day now almost, it is one once unthinkable thing after another.

In the UK, a woman tried to commit suicide by swallowing anti-freeze, and doctors refused to save her! From the story:

Kerrie Wooltorton arrived fully conscious in hospital clutching a ‘living will’ in which she stated she did not want to be saved and was ‘100 per cent aware of the consequences’. The former charity shop worker called an ambulance after drinking the anti-freeze at her flat…

Consultant renal physician Alexander Heaton Alexander Heaton told the inquest in Norwich that the hospital’s medical director and legal adviser informed him Miss Wooltorton clearly had the mental capacity to make the decision about her treatment…’She had made them abundantly clear and I was content that that was the case. It’s a horrible thing to have to do but I felt I had not alternative but to go with her wishes. Nobody wants to let a young lady die.”

Well, then why prevent a person from jumping off a bridge? Indeed, why not just get it over with and set up the euthanasia clinics to make sure nobody is hurt by jumpers! Remember the death of E.G. Robinson’s character in Soylent Green at the death center? It’s almost not science fiction anymore.

This is runaway terminal nonjudgmentalism. We are so lost in the fog of relativism and amorality that we can’t even save suicidal people’s lives anymore.

Indeed, we have gotten to the point that some families think it is their duty to help suicidal loved ones kill themselves, vividly in a tragic case, again out of the UK. After Daniel James became paralyzed, he wanted to kill himself–and was taken by his parents to Switzerland for an assisted suicide with the help of a suicide group called Dignitas.

The case has been seized by euthanasia proponents as a cause célèbre for legalizing assisted suicide, aided by his grieving parents aggressive self justifications in the media, for example, claiming that “nobody but nobody should judge him.”

Absolutely. James was lost in the labyrinth of catastrophic despair. He should neither be judged nor condemned.

But that does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be bullied into silence. We can, nay must, draw conclusions about how those involved in this tragedy behaved. For it isn’t being suicidal that is the moral problem–none of us can know if we might not one day fall prey to such existential despair–it is the alarming changes in how we react to suicidal desires that we must urgently face.

Dignitas, the Swiss suicide facilitating organization, is the worst. These ideologues are paid to assist suicides of people who are dying, who have disabilities, and thanks to a Swiss Supreme Court ruling, will soon be legally able to assist the suicides of the mentally ill. They are utterly culpable morally.

We can also, I think, condemn the media that is using cases like Daniels as one big Oprah show. Oprahtization is about making people feel good about whatever they do, and in that unprinciplism (if you will) are sown the seeds of individual and societal destruction.

Daniel’s parents are a more difficult matter. No one can be unmoved by the deep anguish they must have felt in seeing their son in such howling grief–and their grief today at his death. But while we certainly cannot judge them–as in saying they are horrible people, clearly they are not–we must not condone their actions.

Moreover, it seems fair to ask some questions: Did they seek psychiatric help for him with specialists who deal with the wrenching adjustments sudden paralysis involves? Did they contact disability rights groups who could have had people with similar injuries visit with Daniel to help him understand that life with disabilities can be very good? Did they know that studies have shown that the levels of depression of people who become paralyzed later in life–five years post injury–become the same levels as those of people who are able bodied? These questions are important–not to find ammunition to use against the parents–but to bring the full picture into the public eye in the hope others in similar situations can benefit.

It strikes me forcefully that Kerrie and Daniel were literally abandoned to death by well meaning and loving people who thought they were doing the right things by them. This is what advocacy for the death culture is making of us. And so the foundations crumble.

Evidence of a Designer’s Purpose

By: David Klinghoffer

Most of us find it annoying to be forced into a false dilemma. In a false dilemma, alternatives and gradations of belief are arbitrarily excluded as a technique of manipulation. Accept my version of orthodoxy or you’re a heretic!

Jews and Christians employ this argumentative strategy, not least when conversation turns to emotionally charged subjects – like Darwinian evolution. And not least when it is those on Darwin’s side who are talking.

But in explaining how life developed, aren’t there just two alternatives? That’s what we’re always told in the media. Either life accumulated complex features through a purely Darwinian process of natural selection, or the universe was created in six literal, 24-hour days, less than six thousand years ago.

Actually, there are gradations between the extremes of Darwinism and creationism. That fact often gets lost.

Consider Rabbi Shlomo Brody who writes the Jerusalem Post’s interesting “Ask the Rabbi” column. In a recent article (“Intelligent design?,” October 31), a reader queried him: “Why don’t more Orthodox Jews support the intelligent design movement against evolution?”

Rabbi Brody, rejecting intelligent design as “pseudo-science,” proceeded to state the case not against intelligent design at all, but against the very different doctrine of biblical literalist creationism.

He seemed unaware that intelligent design theory (ID) is a gradation of thought that may be identified neither with creationism nor with Darwinism. A scientific critique of Darwinian evolution, supported by the think tank I’m associated with, the Discovery Institute, ID finds positive evidence of a designer’s purpose in the fossil record, in the nanotechnology at work in the living cell, in the origins of life itself. It entirely accepts paleontology’s evidence that life changed and developed, with most animal body plans or phyla having appeared some 530 million years ago in the Cambrian Explosion. However, ID rejects Darwinism’s insistence that evolution may be explained as unguided, purposeless, meaningless churning.

Yet, from Jewish Darwinists, you’ll often hear the claim that, in the evolution debate, we must choose between enlightened science, which is no threat to Judaism, and scriptural literalism, which Judaism historically rejected anyway. “Judaism has never rejected science,” we are frequently assured. This is wildly simplistic.

INEVITABLY, MAIMONIDES is brought forward as an authority. In the Guide for the Perplexed (II:25), he wrote that when a surface-level reading of the Bible is convincingly refuted by science or logic, then “the gates of interpretation remain open.”

But Jewish Darwinists often forget to read to the end of that chapter. In Maimonides’s day, Aristotelians argued that the universe had no beginning, that it existed eternally. Maimonides responded that he rejected the Aristotelian thesis for two reasons. First, because it “has not been demonstrated.” And second, because it made nonsense of Judaism: “If the philosophers would succeed in demonstrating eternity as Aristotle understands it, the Torah as a whole would become void, and a shift to other opinions would take place. I have thus explained to you that everything is bound up with this problem.”

Maimonides was not saying that any scientific theory can be reconciled with theistic belief, that our liberty to interpret has no limit, and certainly not when the science itself is wrong or unproven.

Another favorite authority of Jewish Darwinists is the 19th-century German rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Again, Hirsch is presented simplistically as a supporter of evolution. Jewish Darwinists always forget to mention his explicit comment on “Darwinism” in the context of the idol, Baal Peor, worshipped in the most grotesquely animalistic fashion. To illustrate: “the kind of Darwinism that revels in the conception of man sinking to the level of beast and stripping itself of its divine nobility, learns to consider itself just a ‘higher’ class of animal” (Numbers 25:3).

ON EVOLUTION, Rabbi Brody is right in perceiving “widespread fear and ignorance.” It can be observed in the Christian world as well. When Jews and Christians alike aren’t being forced into false dilemmas, we are given alternatives to Darwinian theory that can be imagined as reconciling science and theology only if the whole subject is kept cloudy and confused.

Thus the two most recent popes have appeared to speak of the Church’s comfort with “evolution” but without defining the term. Does it mean an unguided process or a guided one? One that gives scientific evidence of a Designer’s purpose, or not?

The ambiguity and hedging probably comes from a fear of putting their Church on the losing side of a historic controversy, and an unfamiliarity with the scientific details.

Last month, Pope Benedict spoke to a conference on cosmic and biological evolution held by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. His words were beautiful but gaseous, taking no clear position. The invited scientists at the conference included cosmologist Stephen Hawking, whose work denies that the universe had a beginning as Aristotle’s did, undercutting basic theistic belief. Scientists who perceive evidence of design in nature were excluded from the conference. No wonder Catholics are confused about what their Church believes.

Thanks to the prevailing murkiness, Catholic doctrine is often identified in the media with “theistic evolution.” Theistic evolution is another gradation of belief between creationism and Darwinism, but an unsatisfactory one. It boils down to the proposition that life’s history was guided by natural laws that God designed but in such a way as to leave no evidence of that fact.

One problem with theistic evolution is that natural laws are predictable whereas Darwinian evolution, according to its own theorists, is entirely unpredictable. Think of those laws that govern weather patterns or the formation of geological features. Not so with Darwinian evolution, which can take any of countless very different directions. How could such a purposeless process reflect divine purpose?

The question is far from merely academic. If we are the product of design, then the designer sets the moral order in which we operate. If we were cast up on the cosmic shore by a purposeless, unguided natural process, then every person can decide for himself what is right and wrong. Or maybe the idea of right and wrong is itself illusory. Darwin watered the seeds of modern nihilism.

To be sure, secular opinion has contributed mightily to constructing the false dilemma of evolution versus creationism, which well suits anti-religious purposes. What a pity that in religious circles, we are so easily intimidated or overawed by secularism’s prestige, automatically surrendering to its deceptive framing of this important debate.

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