What assures that the findings are trustworthy?
Review of Bhagwati‟s In defense of globalization by Paul F. Ross
Jagdish Bhagwati, economist at Columbia University, attended the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, Washington, in the fall of 1999 and was astonished, like the rest of us, by the street presence of protestors who eventually caused the conference to be adjourned. The protestors objected to globalization. In favor of free trade and globalization, Bhagwati took from that experience the need to listen to the protests, examine them, review data bearing on the points the critics were emphasizing, rebutting these views with evidence when that evidence is in hand. Thus this book seeks to listen to the _____________________________________________________________________________________ Bhagwati, Jagdish In defense of globalization 2004, Oxford University Press, New York NY, xi + 308 pages _____________________________________________________________________________________ arguments against globalization and examine their validity – not just rebutting the criticisms but also finding new arguments against globalization. Bhagwati was born in India, educated in the United Kingdom, and is now an active citizen in the United States. He is in his mature years as he writes this book. He is an authority on international trade. In a world populated with national economies, national governments, industries including multinational companies, international governmental agencies with legislative and judicial powers, nongovernmental agencies (NGOs), and the forces of public opinion and political action by groups of various sizes, Bhagwati describes the relationship of these elements to each other. His evidence is in his stories, his seemingly endless supply of stories, as well as by reporting some economic studies. Bhagwati addresses the charges that globalization … increases poverty encourages child labor harms women‟s rights keeps democracy at bay imperils local cultures lowers wage and labor standards imperils the environment aids predatory corporate practices allows dangerous, rapid flows of capital encourages the international flow of humanity Each of these arguments is treated in turn in chapters 5 through 14. Bhagwati finds mostly that free trade (and globalization) is beneficial or, at worst, is neutral. He does find harmful effects under certain circumstances and argues (chapters 16 – 18) that means for better managing the potential downsides of globalization are needed. His general finding, however, is that globalization has a beneficent human face and that its economic and social effects are either benign or indifferent. He concluded his writing in August 2003. It is difficult to find a work more up to date. I came to the reading contaminated by my own expectations about evidence supporting truth from the behavioral sciences, economics included. In my science, psychology, it is the fashion in a „proper‟ scientific study to state one‟s hypotheses, describe how measurements are to be made, think through carefully what control groups are needed and how the sample is to be taken, gather the data, then use statistical methods to discover whether the „null‟ hypothesis, the guess that the proposition being examined is not true, should be rejected. Scientists rejoice when the data reject the null hypothesis. Sometimes we quantify the relationship between the variable measuring the element of interest and the outcome of interest, estimating the shared variance between these two variables. Sometimes, using multivariate statistical methods, we seek to distil an estimate of the variance remaining between the predictor of interest
and the outcome of interest after the effects of all other variables have been held constant. Further, the truth discovered in one study is not widely accepted until it has been confirmed repeatedly in study after study. Psychologists are made cautious by findings that sometimes get reversed in subsequent studies and know that other disciplines suffer the same harsh treatment by the facts. Since econometrics has come to be such a prominent part of economic research in the last several decades, and since „globalization‟ surely involves the interaction of many different influences, many of which also are changing, impacting a wide variety of outcomes, I expected Bhagwati‟s discussion to depend heavily on multivariate, econometric studies. I looked forward to peering over his shoulder at these studies. My expectations were to be dashed. Bhagwati tells story after story after story. Story telling can be justified since Bhagwati‟s intent is to communicate with a wide general audience for whom complicated statistical evidence is not terribly interesting or, possibly, not even convincing. My ill ease with the story telling was increased when Bhagwati wrote: “The remarkable thing is that Black and Brainerd [authors of a study he was discussing at that moment] find that this [expected outcome] did actually happen, confirming the predictive power of sophisticated economic reasoning” (p 76). The important outcome from this study was less that the hypothesis was supported than that sweet reason as a pathway to truth was supported. I distrust sweet reason and trust only repeated confirmation in study after study. So I began to lose confidence in Bhagwati‟s “reading” of the evidence. If I demand repeated studies and he is willing to accept sweet reason, I fear his sweet reason is likely to tell him what his findings will reveal before he begins gathering the data. Since Thurow (2003) wrote in support of globalization and Thurow‟s support for globalization surely was known to Bhagwati, I was surprised to find no citation of Thurow‟s work in Bhagwati. Since Bhagwati (2004) cited many of his own papers going back for as many as three decades, all supporting “free trade,” the sister to globalization, I expected Thurow to have cited Bhagwati.. Thurow (2003) did not once cite Bhagwati. Bhagwati mentions Stiglitz three times, citing none of Stiglitz‟ published work. Bhagwati perceives Stiglitz as an opponent of globalization although Stiglitz supported free trade as adviser to the Clinton administration (Stiglitz, 2003, p 202) and criticizes that administration, especially Treasury, for liberalizing capital markets (Stiglitz, 2003, p 204 and other places). Apparently Columbia where Bhagwati works is a very long way from both MIT and Stanford where Thurow and Stiglitz work. I‟m left wondering if these people read each other. Should the reader, then, discount Bhagwati‟s whole book, all his arguments. Not necessarily. Simply read with care. Dig into the supporting data whenever possible. As an onlooker, not an expert in this field, I support free trade and globalization as do Thurow, Stiglitz, and Bhagwati. So I was ready to accept Bhagwati‟s findings in support of globalization. In the reading, his arguments and credible data, when available, were thought provoking. I appreciated Bhagwati‟s cautions with respect to avoiding the downsides of globalization, downsides that Bhagwati sees as possible. However Bhagwati‟s method, storytelling, and his faith in “sweet reason” had me driving under the “caution” flag on his track … an appropriate metaphor prompted by today‟s running of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race. Bellevue, Washington 30 May 2004 References Bhagwati, Jagdish In defense of globalization 2004, Oxford University Press, New York NY Stiglitz, Joseph E. The roaring nineties: A new history of the world’s most prosperous decade 2003, W. W. Norton & Company, New York NY Thurow, Lester Fortune favors the bold: What we must do to build a new and lasting global prosperity 2003, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York NY