The Responsible Globalist is the kind of book I love. The author, Hassan Damluji clearly has an opinion and thesis he wishes to advance, but he does not let that cloud his analysis of the issues. He believes that a global world will be a more prosperous world, and that we should take steps towards becoming a more global society. But instead of bashing nationalists and pitting them against globalists, he writes in a style directed towards globalists, coaching them on how to understand the shortfalls in their arguments and the history of nationalism. He paints a picture where the two sides are not absolute opposites, but rather globalists need to learn from nationalists’ ability to unite people around common goals and work with nationalists to understand their concerns. Damluji structures The Responsible Globalist with six simple principles that globalists must work towards if they are to win nationalists over to their way of thinking.
At a little under 200 pages, this book is a quick, yet informative read, free of the rambling and repetition in The Black Swan. All six principles forced me to see issues facing the world from multiple perspectives. I’ll discuss three here.
Principle 1: Leave no one out
In order to achieve a truly global, planet sized nation, we cannot leave certain nations out because they have different forms of government or are different from western society.
“While ‘Western’ is often seen as a synonym for ‘global’, other cultures are expected to remain local. There has been a growing tendency in recent years to insist that cultural production from outside Europe and North America should be somehow preserved exclusively for the group that made it. This argument states that the adoption by white people of cultural forms originating in India, say, or China or West Africa is wrong and constitutes a form of theft, or appropriation. For example, in the United States there was a recent uproar over a high-school student who is not of Chinese origin but wore a Chinese-style dress to her prom. Social media postings of her wearing the attire attracted wide-scale criticism from other Americans, some of Chinese origin, who felt that her action ‘appropriated’ Chinese culture in an unreasonable way. The response from China, however, was instructive. As the controversy spilled out from American shores, thousands of people in mainland China publicized their support for the choice of prom dress, which they saw as a compliment rather than an offense. They had a point. Chinese people for decades have regularly worn clothes in a style which indicates significant borrowing from Europe and North America. They didn’t feel that they were ‘appropriating’ European culture by doing so. Why shouldn’t their fashions travel in the other direction?”-Hassan Damluji, The Responsible Globalist
Damluji continues to make an important distinction between cultural borrowing and true cultural appropriation (theft) that has occurred throughout history.
I would like to take Damluji’s argument a step further: facts and context matter. When we ignore the facts, and conflate instances of cultural borrowing with cultural appropriation, we can do great harm to the cultures we are trying to help. When an accuser calls out others for appropriation, when in fact cultural borrowing is a more accurate representation of what is occurring, they are signaling to the people living in “appropriated” countries around the world that they are being robbed, and they need the help of westerners in order for their culture to remain solely within their hands. It is especially problematic when westerners speak on behalf of other cultures without consulting with them to understand their wishes.
The free exchange of ideas between cultures makes the world a more inclusive and diverse place. Different cultures are able to capitalize on the aspects of their culture that are in demand around the world. When appropriation accusers happily allow western culture to be exported around the world, and profited from by those who live in western countries, but argue indignantly against non-western nations’ cultures being adopted by westerners, they are acting in a manner that is counter-productive to their own goals. They have violated Principle #1: Leave no one out.
Principle 4: If you love mobility, let it go
The issue of immigration seems to always be front and center somewhere in the world. The media love to use their favorite SAT word–xenophobic to describe those who oppose or want to have a discussion about the merits of limiting immigration. Damluji’s view is that while globalists desire free movement–free movement would lead to a global net economic increase–this goal should not be implemented in this generation. Damluji cites research done by Robert Putnam, a prominent political scientist, who discusses the repercussions of a concept called “social capital” which, is defined as ‘social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness’.
“Americans living in high-immigration communities trust other people less, including even those from their own ethnicity. They report less confidence in local government, local leaders and local news reports. They believe they have less ability to change thing and are less likely to register to vote. They have lower expectations of cooperation, donate less time and money to charity and have fewer friends and confidants. Finally, they are less happy, have a lower quality of life and spend more time watching television.”Robert Putnam’s research cited in The Responsible Globalist
Those with more education and wealth have a propensity to view immigration more favorably due to their higher social capital, whereas those with less education and wealth are the ones who incur the often times invisible costs associated with immigration. In other words, even though the net increase in economic terms may be positive, the gain is distributed unequally and the intangible costs incurred by the losers of this bargain are difficult to calculate and, for them, could outweigh the tangible benefits.
Damluji makes it clear that undermining trust in our institutions is a threat to the global community. Brexit in an interesting case where anti-immigration sentiment led to the integrity of democratic institutions being threatened. After the surprise victory, there were calls for a “re-vote” which seems like the ultimate undermining of democracy. If democratic decisions are not accepted, then there is no democracy.
Abraham Lincoln faced a similar predicament when he was elected president without a single electoral vote from the southern states. Southern states, unhappy with the result of the election, attempted to negotiate concessions from the new government in exchange for remaining in the Union. Lincoln’s response shows how even in the face of grave challenges, setting the precedent of respecting democracy is the most important precedent to set. “I will suffer death before I consent … to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right.”
Instead of fighting for open borders, against the will of the majority, globalists should fight for the free movement of students, which he says benefits the host country immensely. They should also fight for refugees to be saved from human rights abuses and fairly distributed amongst able countries.
What is fair? Is it fair to distribute refugees proportionate to population size? Or, should countries best equipped to house immigrants be the ones who bear the burden?
The United States is in a unique position when it comes to accepting refugees. In America, a refugee can come to America and become a legal citizen, but they also have the advantage of being able to assimilate with American culture and live in communities with other members of their birth nation. They can both retain their native culture while being seen as an American by their fellow citizens. The same is not true in many countries where there is less ethnic diversity and a strong association between ethnicity and nationality.
If a Middle Eastern refugee, for example is granted citizenship in China, they are unlikely to be viewed as Chinese by the majority Han Chinese population. Through great strain, they may learn mandarin, and work towards acquiring a taste for exotic animals, but they are not ethnically Chinese so they will face more trouble assimilating and perhaps have worse outcomes than they would in a more diverse country.
So who should take more refugees? It seems that in the interest of the refugees, they are better off in countries where ethnicity does not determine how nationality is viewed in the eyes of other citizens. Countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries of immigrants, with a larger immigrant population, would seem to offer the best prospects.
But is this fair to these countries? Refugees are not free, providing programs and assistance to help them get off the ground cost money and the benefits from these programs will take time to produce returns. Also, as we saw in Putnam’s research, the intangible costs of immigration may be distributed unevenly throughout the population with the majority of the burden being shouldered by those who are less well off in wealthy countries.
These are some of the complicated issues with immigration. Global collaboration is necessary in order to find solutions to tough questions like these.
Principle 5: The winners must pay to play
In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty identified a wealth tax as a way to combat the ever increasing inequality in wealth. Damluji makes a similar suggestion in calling for a global wealth tax of 0.5% annually on wealth in excess of $1 million in assets. He sees globalization as a process that has the ability to create a better world for everyone, but not if the gains from globalization are asymmetric: a few massive winners, and a lot of losers.
“For too long, globalization has been explained as a process that inevitably moves people from poorer countries to richer countries, moves manual jobs from richer countries to poorer countries and decreases governments’ ability to control the economy – especially when it comes to taxing the ultra-mobile elite. No wonder large sections of the population, especially manual workers in rich countries, have come to see globalization as a threat rather than an opportunity. They see more competition for scarcer jobs in a rapidly changing community that no longer feels like home, while the people gaining the most from the global economy contribute less and less, rather than sharing the proceeds of economic growth with people like them who have lost out.”Hassan Damluji, The Responsible Globalist
A global wealth tax is an interesting solution. The fixed $1 million threshold is arbitrary and should probably adjust based off a number of factors such as where you live and how many kids you have. The real issue with the implementation of a wealth tax is that without global cooperation and transparency, it will not succeed in its goal of redistributing some of the gains from globalization more fairly. If a country attempts to unilaterally implement this type of wealth tax, some citizens will find ways to avoid it. Especially when nations around the world welcome and encourage legal or semi-legal ways to hide their wealth and avoid transparency.
Right now, there is a race to the bottom between countries competing to be the go to tax haven for wealthy individuals and corporations. Small countries like Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands are competing to be the tax home for individuals and corporations residing in relatively high tax countries like the United States. Companies like Apple and Google, with an obligation to shareholders, will always work towards minimizing the taxes that they pay, to maximize shareholder equity. The low tax countries are in competition with each other to offer the lowest tax rates, the least transparency, and the least international accountability. If Ireland decides to cut their corporate tax rate companies will be incentivized to relocate from the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Island’s are not going to let that happen, so they will undercut Ireland; the race to the bottom ensues.
The existence of tax havens and a lack of global tax regulations demonstrate the failure of globalists to reign in the winners from globalization. Large corporations and rich individuals have more power than the collective governments of the world because of the actions of smaller nations whose existence and continued prosperity depends on undermining global goals in favor of their own.Who can blame them though? Their economies rely on these revenues and to impose an outright ban could cause unjust harm to the citizens living in these countries. Many of these countries do not have the same natural resources, industry, or sheer size rich countries do and therefore turned to the business of tax havens as somewhat of a last resort. Global cooperation–including the cooperation of the tax havens–is needed to work towards a fair outcome.
Over the next few decades, inequality will worsen as returns on capital continue to outpace returns from labor. The race to the bottom will continue and corporate tax rates will plummet. Lower taxes mean more equity and higher returns for shareholders (ceteris paribus), further perpetuating the already growing divide between the rich and the poor.
At some point though, we will realize that global cooperation is the best way to address the most pressing issues and come to fair solutions. Immigration, inequality, as well as climate change (which I will explore soon) will not resolve themselves. The problem is that until these issues become so apparent that they are impossible to ignore, inaction will likely be the main global action. By the time the world comes around to realizing that working together is the most pragmatic solution, will it be too late?