In Defense of Global Capitalism

In Defense of Global Capitalism (2001) by Johan Norberg is a thorough, thoughtful, fact backed justification for globalisation and capitalism. Norberg puts forth the thesis that the problem with globalisation and capitalism is that some countries are yet to adopt it. Norberg is a good, clear writer and he goes through his arguments well. He starts off by saying how he went through an anarchist phase before becoming a liberal.

Norberg’s main argument is that the recent historical record indicates strongly that countries that trade freely are the ones that grow. He says that this is the best way to enrich people, make their lives longer and healthier and better. He also says that the idea of ‘fair trade’ is untenable as what is ‘fair’ is subjective and that free trade is fair because he believes that people only trade when both parties get mutual advantage. Norberg looks at South American to show how planned, highly protected go. He omits the fact that there was also high growth in some countries that had fairly high levels of protection like Australia in the post war period.

Norberg spends a little time on looking at why free markets do so much better than planned ones, he mentions the information that is created by markets and the efficiency of people choosing what works for them rather than someone who supposedly knows better who is often further away from the decision.

He looks at the criticisms of the market, the race to the bottom idea, and disposes of them by pointing out that instead there is more of a race to the top as people look for efficient societies with good infrastructure and highly trained workers that, coupled with capital, generate the most wealth.

The book is strong, ultimately what it says has such strong backing from the way things have worked out that it’s hard to argue with. But showing people what works often isn’t as popular as a polemic that decries the state of the world. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not brilliant. It’s a good antidote to silly books like No Logo and a good source for data on how things have improved.

3 / 5

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One response to “In Defense of Global Capitalism

  1. I would be a little dubious about the thesis that the ‘problem’ with capitalism is that everyone is yet to adopt it. Applying that to any other ism makes the flaw in that theory fairly obvious.

    You also don’t mention whether he explores the consequences of every society adopting capitalism?

    Nevertheless, it sounds like an interesting book.

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