Global EconomyThe push for expanded world trade is often advocated as a benefit for underdeveloped nations. Industrialists claimed that it is better work in a shoe factory for minimum wage and live in poor tenements than it is to continue to live on a poor family farm with your local village culture, language and values intact.
Global trade is an ancient feature of humans. Humans are restless, nomadic creatures who travel often, trade goods and copy skills and tools they encounter in their journeys. Ships permit longer journeys and transport of larger, heavier cargo. European colonization and exploitation of the rest of the world relied on ship-based commerce that linked Europe with Asia, Africa and the Americas. African countries still struggle with food shortages and famine, in part because colonial world trade replaced indigenous food crops with monocultures for export. Africans cannot eat coffee and cocoa. The monocultures damaged local food production in many different ways – physical changes in the environment coupled with the loss of skills and motivation required for self-sufficiency. Cash crops for export obliterate regional autonomy.
When you understand human nature, you know that humans do best as members of small local groups. Local autonomy is an intrinsic value that is violated by global trade. As citizens of many countries protest and seek more autonomy politicians refer to protectionism and offer dire predictions of global economic crashes. Enlightened leaders will seek bottom-up solutions by supporting local groups, local initiatives and will only write rules and laws that increases local autonomy of human groups wherever they live. The authentic basis of trade is surplus. Each group grows its own food and makes the goods they need; when there is a surplus, the extra food and goods are traded. When cash crops and trade goods dominate a group's activities and interests, they loose their sense of purpose, cohesion and sooner or later become dysfunctional and fail.
In recent years, industries in the US have moved production to poorer countries to avoid unionized labor, taxes, regulations and high infrastructure costs. The negative effects at home and abroad are fast accumulating. The US in 2008 faced an economic crisis that revealed fundamental weaknesses in the economy that may never be repaired. China, the beneficiary of foreign investment, is facing the consequences of severe environmental degradation and the social consequences of about 100 million displaced migrant workers who left poor but reasonably stable agricultural communities to work in factories. Factories were built on agricultural land and polluted air, land and water supplies.
Even the most affluent humans are trapped in marketing networks that violate their basic instincts. City dwellers are vulnerable to even small disruptions of energy, water and food supplies. They are helpless when local utilities fail and stores run out of essential supplies. Gray argued that: "Free marketers tell us that the unprecedented productivity of a rational economic system will remove the causes of social conflict and war. Through human history, wars have arisen from territorial and dynastic conflicts, from religious and ethnic enmities, and from the divergent economic interests pursued by sovereign states. The threat to peace has not disappeared with the end of the Cold War. The nature of war has merely mutated. One consequence of a global economy has proved to be a world awash with weapons. Sovereign states will be drawn into a struggle for control of the earth's dwindling natural resources. In the coming century ideological rivalries between states may well be succeeded by wars of scarcity."