On Bill McKibben's "Deep Economy" and the Downside of Globalization

I’ve had Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy (2007) on my bookshelf for a year and now that I’ve finally got around to reading it, I regret the long delay. In a sea of admirable but gloomy titles, such as McKibben’s own The End of Nature (1989), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2004), and Matthew Simmons’s Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy (2006), Deep Economy touches on many of the same issues, such as climate change, peak oil, the abuses of Big Agriculture and multinational corporations, but he surprisingly offers a good deal of hope for change. For years now I’ve been skeptical of the mainstream spin on Globalization, basically that it’s always a good thing. If you criticize the outsourcing of jobs or manufacturing, you’re accused of being an Isolationist, Nationalist, or Protectionist. Or all three. A retrograde swimming against the lovely current of Global megaeconomies. I don’t buy it. Much as the Wall Street Journal can tell us that shipping all our manufacturing to China is good (it opens up their markets for our crap, which we can then shuttle back and forth across the Pacific in an endless consumer-whore cycle), carting natural resources thousands of miles back and forth, which entails gargantuan energy usage that is heating our planet into serious trouble, I still don’t buy the propaganda. It reminds me of the  dismissive rhetoric aimed at skeptics of the real estate boom a few years back, skeptics who proved to be right on target. We were in a New Economy, corrupt bankers told us, where housing prices would continue to rise under the wise and benevolent actions of a Free Market, no matter the obvious bubble in the real estate of Florida, California, and elsewhere, the burst of which has now plunged us into the Great Recession.
Mine is not a simplistic, knee-jerk Globalization Is Bad argument. There are obvious benefits of some aspects of Globalization, including the obvious result of raising the standard of living in developing countries. (Although American media tends to be naive to the point of stupidity about the actual breadth and problems of the Chinese monopoly on manufacturing. For a good analysis of this, read Peter Navarro’s The Coming China Wars (2006), whose title is a bit deceptive, because it’s actually an excellent book, compassionate toward the Chinese people, and really is not about war, even economic.) But definitely we have weakened our local economies by allowing Wal-Mart to undercut local stores and drive them out of business. Local manufacturing is a wiser use of energy and resource management. Period. Deep Economy does an excellent job of articulating this argument, and of suggesting ways that we can mitigate the gluttonous effects of Globalization through encouraging local solutions and local economies.

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