Three Cheers For Globalization

I finally got around to reading Peter Thiel's Hoover essay from a few months ago on bubbles and globalization. Much of it was over my head, but I did like his definition of globalization:

“Globalization” means a breaking down of barriers between nations; an increase in travel and knowledge about other countries; an increase of trade and competition among and between the peoples of the world, to the point where there is a more or less level playing field in the entire world; and the death of all cultures, in the sense of robust systems that exclude part of humanity. On the level of economics, it means a global marketplace; and on the level of politics, it means the ascension of transnational elites and organizations, at the expense of all localized countries and governments.

Even these preliminary observations remind one that globalization remains far from complete. Massive barriers to trade remain. The nation-state has not withered away. On the crudest of economic measures — say, the difference between the income of a car factory worker in Detroit and in Shenzhen — the gulf between the present and a truly global future remains vast. And on the level of the UN, the WTO, or Echelon, political unity remains more an aspiration than a reality.

At the same time, the current round of globalization has reached a point equal to or greater than past cycles. As measured by the percentage of tradable GDP, or the number of people who live in countries different from their place of birth, or even more abstractly, the connectivity of the world, we stand at a level of globalization that compares with the previous peak year of 1913.

Thiel strikes the right balance between retrospective optimism regarding past progress and forward-looking pessimism given how far we still have yet to go. We live in interesting times, and I can only hope the trend continues.

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