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Globalisation helps rich and poor alike


The Daily Telegraph

Thursday, September 7, 2000

Des Moore

When the World Economic Forum (WEF) meets in Melbourne on 11 September various groups opposed to capitalism and to “free market” reforms are set to make vigorous protests. Their stated aim is to prevent discussions amongst world business and political leaders even though the WEF is not a policy-making body and has operated now for around thirty years. Such attempts have become part of an emerging world-wide pattern, using the Internet to garner local support for attacks.


The most publicized protests were last year in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting to start the next round of trade liberalisation.   There activists were encouraged by US President Clinton’s foolish call for the WTO to include protesters in its processes and by initially poor administration of local police under a former protester. Although most journalists played down those protests, activists seriously broke the law by causing significant damage to private property and injuries to police, and stopping delegates from accessing the opening day. Police made hundreds of arrests at Seattle and other protests but this has not deterred the activists.


The handling of the WEF protest will be an important test not only for Melbournians but also for security at the Sydney Olympics, where protesters from Melbourne will combine with various non-government organizations to attract attention.


But the key questions are - will the Victorian and NSW police really protect the rights of ordinary citizens and will Government leaders make any effective response to the anti-capitalists? Claims about the right to protest are acceptable in principle but few people agree that activists will be non-violent. Indeed, such people apparently use their right to protest, and support from students and other sympathizers, as fronts for instituting violent action to publicise their causes. Modern societies, we are told, are basically undemocratic because minority views are ignored and can only register on the community through such publicity.  


Recent Victorian history does not encourage confidence that police will prevent violence, property damage and harassment of citizens going about their business. In recent years policing policy has been driven by an instruction that "the success of any operation will be primarily judged by the extent to which the use of force is avoided or minimised". Police have thus become reluctant to use force in a range of violent demonstrations when others’ rights were clearly significantly reduced. Moreover, proposals to re-write the instruction, and to introduce devices commonly employed overseas, have fallen on deaf ears.


Behind this Victorian softly, softly policing policy lies a worrying development at higher levels in society. Thus, at senior political, judicial and business levels there has been increased reluctance to actively defend basic economic principles and their social effects. Yet freer market and “globalisation” policies, which are strongly opposed as inequitable by WEF-type protesters, have undoubtedly helped improve Australia’s living standards.


A new study, Growth is Good for the Poor, by senior World Bank researcher, David Dollar, reveals no increase in inequality within the 80 countries covered and that income of “the poor” has risen in line with average income per head.


Dollar points out that “the basic policy package of private property rights, fiscal discipline, macro stability, and openness to trade increases the income of the poor to the same extent that it increases the income of the other households in society.”


In short, contrary to the impression created by many economic analysts and the media, “globalisation” is not inequitable and has stimulated economic growth. Leaders should now espouse the cause of globalisation in the context of the WEF and the Olympics - and also highlight the gross inaccuracies of the protesters.  



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