Are ordinary people served or threatened by globalization? The term itself, of course, means different things depending on who is using it. But the form of globalization that has provoked populist-oriented passions in both hemispheres in recent years has at its heart the determination to suppress people’s exercise of the powers of representative government.
If, in the age of the cell phone, globalization meant being able to call New York from London, or receive calls there, without either having to buy a new SIM card with a different phone number or pay extra fees, no one would object. Or if it meant driving on the same side of the road everywhere, or electric connections in the wall not having twice the voltage and taking a different number of plug prongs, thereby making your curling iron and electric shaver incompatible without an adapter.
But the globalization that governmental and corporate elites are so keen to protect and preserve from the ire of voters hasn’t given travelers and consumers any of that kind of globalized convenience; their globalization is all about accepting the inconveniences and restrictions your betters have concluded to be good for you. And when faced with economic crises that affect the man in the street, the woman in the home, and the child in the school, that variety of globalization comes under severe threat politically—unless the globalist aristocrats can smother democratic dissent on some kind of permanent basis.
Barroso’s worries were extensive, as globalization contends with “friction from nationalism, protectionism, nativism, chauvinism if you wish, or even sometimes xenophobia, and for me it is not clear who is going to win.” He cited “tension between the US and China ... accelerated by the pandemic and now this invasion of Ukraine by Russia.” The mood seems to be distinctly along the lines of "if it weren’t for this confounded war, on the heels of this confounded pandemic, this super party of ours wouldn’t have been pooped."
That a figure like former Portuguese Prime Minister Barroso could end up occupying the upper echelons of the second-largest investment bank in the world, whose name is a byword for corporate capitalism, is reminiscent of John O. Brennan casting his vote for Communist Party USA head Gus Hall in the 1976 presidential election, and then, four years later, being given a job at the CIA—which knew of his Communist allegiance—before finally being appointed director of the CIA by President Barack Obama in 2013.
“We deplore the fact you have not been specific in past public statements about human rights violations in China and thus failed to engage in a public dialogue with both the people of China and Europe,” wrote Lotte Leicht, the organization’s EU director, in a letter to Barroso while he was president of the European Commission on the eve of Xi Jinping’s visit to Brussels in March 2014.
“At a time where courageous Chinese activists, journalists, and lawyers are demanding government accountability and implementation of rights enshrined in both Chinese and international law, it is quite simply unacceptable for you as President of the Commission not to speak out as set out in the EU’s Strategic Framework.”
Quoting that formal commitment, Leicht pointed out that “the EU pledged to raise human rights issues ‘vigorously in all appropriate forms of bilateral dialogue, including at the highest level.’ We call on you to live up to this pledge and support those inside China struggling to ensure their human rights.”
The litany of vices Barroso rattled off recently, led by “nationalism,” cannot be managed by a bureaucratic creature whose underlying purpose is to shrink nationality. No matter how much money the likes of Barroso can wield to buy compliance, no international body can keep the lid on the boiling pot of free, industrialized nations’ citizens’ anger at a level of inflation unseen by most in their lifetimes, the consequences of dovish Europeans practically inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine through the shortcomings of their energy and military stances, and years-long migration crises in Europe and the United States.
Only people running their own countries—nation states’ representative governments in action—carrying out the messy work of passing, changing, and repealing laws in a manner seen by the populace as legitimate, can let off the steam that will otherwise lead to an explosion.