Being grossly bourgeois, as we are, there are several reasons why we might support this whole globalisation thing that’s been going on over the past few decades. As bourgeois liberals we applaud the manner in which freedom of trade, ofcapital movement, allows people to do as they wish with their own money. Invest where and when, purchase from whomever, they might wish. An addition to human freedom.
But also as those grossly bourgeois types that we are we are able to welcome hundreds of millions, nay billions, into those petit bourgeois pleasures of regular meals and a roof over the head. As Branco Milanovic, who is one of the experts on these things, points out:
When we look at the global population rather than at countries, however, there is a positive side. The unprecedented growth of China and, from the early 1990s, of India, as well as much of the rest of Asia has lifted millions out of poverty. For the first time since the industrial revolution, income inequality among world citizens has fallen.
We have regularly pointed out this result from Milanovic here. But there’s more:
It is also a fragile middle class because it is still relatively poor. Even when we include among the global middle the groups whose real incomes increased (in percentage terms) the most between 1988 and 2008 – that is people with incomes from $3 to $16 per day – it is only those at the upper end of the range who overlap with what is considered the lower middle class in rich countries.
The major beneficiaries of this globalisation thing have not been us rich world people, most certainly not the plutocrats in the gilded castles. It’s been those just struggling up out of that $1, $2 a day poverty who have been, propotionately, benefitting the most.
It all sounds like rather a good system really. A bit more freedom for people to do as they wish and we find that the poor get richer, inequality declines and that bourgeois section of the population just grows and grows. Milanovic does sound one note of caution: it’s possible to slide back from that $4 and $6 a day sort of income back into real poverty. It’s only when incomes rise about $10 a day that that backsliding seems not to happen. So we’d probably better keep going in what we’re doing then, eh?