Of Cashmere and Globalization . . . by guest blogger David Foster

Monday’s Wall Street Journal carried an interesting item on the problems now besetting herders in Mongolia. It seems that many of these people had borrowed extensively in order to expand their herds and supply the growing demand for cashmere from the U.S. and Europe. (Like Americans with home-equity loans, some of them also spent part of the loan proceeds on consumer goods such as motorbikes.) With the economic downturn, cashmere prices have dropped, and many herders are being forced to sell off their animals. Some have even had their tents foreclosed.

The story reminded me of a passage from Hendrik Willem Van Loon’s classic book The Story of Mankind, published in 1921:

Unfortunately in the year 1914 the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.

The Mongolia story also reminded me of some dark thoughts from Ralph Peters, published in 2006:

Globalization is real, but its power to improve the lot of humankind has been madly oversold. Globalization enthralls and binds together a new aristocracy–the golden crust on the human loaf–but the remaining billions, who lack the culture and confidence to benefit from “one world,” have begun to erect barricades against the internationalization of their affairs. And, from Peshawar to Paris, those manning the barricades increasingly turn violent over perceived threats to their accustomed patterns of life. If globalization represents a liberal worldview, renewed localism is a manifestation of reactionary fears, resurgent faiths, and the iron grip of tradition. Except in the commercial sphere, bet on the localists to prevail.

When the topic of resistance to globalization arises, an educated American is apt to think of a French farmer-activist trashing a McDonald’s, anarchist mummers shattering windows during World Bank powwows, or just the organic farmer with a stall at the local market. But the swelling resistance to globalization is far more powerful and considerably more complex than a few squads of drop-outs aiming rocks at the police in Seattle or Berlin. We are witnessing the return of the tribes–a global phenomenon, but the antithesis of globalization as described in pop bestsellers. The twin tribal identities, ethnic and religious brotherhood, are once again armed and dangerous.


Men dream of change, but cling to what they know. Far from teaching the workers of the world to love one another (or at least to enjoy a Starbucks together), the economic and informational effects of globalization have been to remind people how satisfying it is to hate. Whether threatened in their jobs, their moral code, or their religion, human beings dislocated by change don’t want explanations. They want someone to blame.

I think Peters understates the many positive imacts of globalization–the reductions in desperate poverty in India and China, for example–but the psychological reactions he describes are often very real.

David Foster blogs at Photon Courier and Chicago Boyz.  You can leave comments here, or contact him directly at photoncourier at yahoo.com.

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    I think Peters understates the many positive imacts of globalization–the reductions in desperate poverty in India and China, for example–but the psychological reactions he describes are often very real.

    So long as there is an American military holding the globe in a stable peace, globalization can produce benefits. Once you remove the military power from the equation, then globalizaton is one of the best excuses ever for war, so des neh. If your vital interests are affected from half way across the world, and the only power in existence has been kicked off the THrone of Heaven, why not make your bid for the Throne? It was what the various generals of Rome did, and look at how that turned out.


    The next time someone tells you that you need to stop complaining about Obama and pull together to “support the President and your nation” remember this. This excellent example of how Obama doesn’t give a damn about the nation, its national security, or economic prosperity.

    This is, of course, a direct comment on the Marioth character that visited us here recently.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    The Obama Loyalists and followers seem to thnk that people like me have a personal duty or obligation to give something to Obama that he sure as hell doesn’t give to previous Presidents like Bush. Respect? Loyalty? Consideration for the welfare of America and our national security? I’ll stay loyal to America and strive for our national interests, but I won’t become Obama’s dog in the process. Not when he isn’t worthy of a single damn drop of American blood.

  • Mike Devx

    Ymar #2:
    >> The Obama Loyalists and followers seem to thnk that people like me have a personal duty or obligation to give something to Obama that he sure as hell doesn’t give to previous Presidents like Bush.

    I’ve been monitoring the endless sequence of apologies that our current president is mouthing as he jets from international city to international city. It’s irritated me, but I’d been thinking “this is just another one of his disgusting foibles.”

    More and more I am finding the Apology Tour actively objectionable.

    – Internal politics used to stop at our shore. When in foreign countries, our leaders and congresscritters and diplomats would never engage in verbal partisan knifings. To do what Obama is doing would have been considered shocking and in profoundly bad taste.

    – Similarly, criticizing prior administrations while overseas used to be absolutely forbidden for the same reasons. It is a measure of the grace of the Bush administration that, when any of them are overseas, even to this day you will find them never engaging in a critical word of either the prior Clinton administration nor the current Obama administration. They simply have more class than that.

    – I heard a snippet of a recent Obama speech where he actually said, “Before I got here…” and then launching into another set of his criticisms. On one level, this is just another apology on the Apology Tour, but the phrasing also exposes, yet again, his incredibly deep narcissism.

    – Did he apologize for Carter giving away the Panama Canal? Or for Carter contributing to the removal of the Shah of Iran, to be replaced with one of the most regressive and oppressive theocratic regimes on the face of the earth. Ha! Of course not.

    And that last example illustrates the problem best: Obama is apologizing for prior administration decisions with which he simply disagrees. Every new administration has such a list of disagreements. Are we now to see an Apology Tour and a Criticism Tour by every single new administration, outlining the disagreements they had with any and all prior administrations. As apologies for the mistakes?

    It’s crass and a violation of protocol. His administration, too, will end. The next administration will certainly have its own foreign policy that will be at odds with his. Are THEY to follow his example, then? Obama should remember that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    And the subsequent administration, if they follow his nasty example, is going to have plenty of material from the Obama Years to apologize for. For that next administration, there will be so much material that that new Apology Tour will go on for months, neverending.

    There’s a reason administrations, and in particular presidents, do not do what this one is doing. It’s extremely low-class and reflects poorly on us all.

  • Mike Devx

    One more word about the Chavez hugfest. Obama is there, shaking his hand, other hand clapping him on the shoulder, with the biggest and happiest grin you ever saw on his face. This forms a tableau suggesting extremely close friends meeting again after a very long absence.

    This occurred after Chavez delivered to him the now-infamous book casting America as a vicious villian that for 500 years ruthlessly exploited all nations to its south, leaving them viciously oppressed.

    Obama will not even meet with the current leader of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu. Were he to meet with him, do you believe for even one second that he would shake his hand, and clap him repeatedly on the shoulder, with a great big happy grin on his face? Not on your life.

    And Obama simply sat there in a group meeting, and said nothing during a half-hour diatribe by Daniel Ortega against the United States of America. Obama still has said nothing about that.

    This is a president who has nothing good to say about America, when overseas, unless it is about his own administration. He considers himself separate and apart from America. If he is not for me; if he does not represent my country while abroad, and promote us, and defend us… then why should I grant him even one iota of respect as a fellow American, let alone as the president? He’s dumping on my country every second of every day while overseas, and cannot be roused to defend us for even a moment. The more I consider this, the more upset I become.