Smoothing the Rough Edges of Globalization

Lael Brainard
Lael Brainard National Economic Advisor - National Economic Council

November 18, 2002

In the 1967 movie, The Graduate, a suburban businessman summed up the future in a single word: “Plastics.” If you had to sum up the future today, what would your one word be? My one word would be globalization.

What is globalization? For anyone in Latin America or Asia or the Middle East, Globalization R Us. Most believe that globalization is a grand American conspiracy—a relentless quest to subordinate the planet to Mickey Mouse, Madonna and McDonalds.

But that is just part of the truth. In fact, globalization is simply the logic of the market playing out. And the market takes on a life of its own, beyond the control of any single nation.

September 11 was a defining event for America’s posture in the globalization debate no less than for America’s strategic posture. Too many in foreign lands displayed a disturbing readiness to interpret the attacks as a comeuppance for an arrogant superpower pushing its own brand of globalization on an increasingly resentful world.