For the past decade or so, “globalization” has been the media buzzword used to describe changes in the U.S. and world economies, perhaps second in recent years only to “the New Economy” in frequency of use. For the most part, this discussion of globalization has focused on changes that seem apparent in contrast to the period following WWII. According to one popular version of this story, in the 1970s the barriers to cross-border trade and financial transactions began to come down. By the late 1990s, as one commentator put it, we lived on the cusp of a “borderless world” where people, information, equipment and ideas would flow freely. In this context, it was imagined, the world would prosper as never before. During the post-war period, global cross-border trade and financial transactions were a fraction of what they are today. For many developed countries, the increased trade of the past few decades has meant a decline in the importance of manufacturing, as production of everything from cars to shoes has moved to places where labor was relatively cheap. For a few developing countries, this has meant increased investment from rich developed nations. But for many—especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, to say nothing of the ex-manufacturing sectors of the developed world—so-called “globalization” has bought few, if any, of the beneficial effects once imagined. Or so it would seem.
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