A Future Perfect: The Challenge
and Hidden Promise of Globalization
By John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Times Business
368 pages, $27.50

The problem with globalization is that it isn't global enough. Why stop with global markets? Why not global trade unions and global environmental laws? Why not turn the world into one big school district and let Nike workers in Vietnam vote for property tax millages on Phil Knight's mansion in Oregon? That would be indisputably global, yet ideas like that never make it onto the agenda of globalization's advocates.

The word "globalization," properly speaking, ought to apply to any institution or


mechanism that lets people in different countries coordinate their efforts, to whatever end. But in practice it applies only to markets, while other transnational legal and governmental arrangements that might help people to bargain collectively or regulate pollution or redistribute wealth are attacked as outright impediments to globalization. Which means that globalization is really a code word for laissez-faire capitalism.

Such, unfortunately, is the case with John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge's A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization. The authors, staffers at The Economist, seem to promise a more expansive view, one that will "confront the harsh questions concerning those people who lose on account of globalization, not just economically but socially and culturally." The book never lives up to this claim, which is not surprising, since they also mean it as a "call to arms" for all of globalism's "faint-hearted" defenders. By sticking with the usual narrow, ideologically loaded conception of globalization, they've produced a self-contradictory mess that does little to bolster confidence in free trade, even as it demonstrates why business elites have adopted it as their rallying cry. Micklethwait and Wooldridge want to make an "intellectual case for globalization," so it's worthwhile to ask how strong this really is.

Bottom Navigation Home Archives Contact Us About In These Times Subscribe to In These Times