Peoplehood draft Wexner Address, continued

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The most defining force in the 21st century so far is the impact of globalization. While there are many benefits of globalization, there is also the acceleration of injustices and gaps between the rich and poor. The only antidote to the negative effects of globalization is mutual responsibility, which is something that is hard-wired into the essence of the Jewish people.

We have been a global people for 2,000 years. At a time when the international institutions formed after World War II are lacking in the ethical framework to deal with a new and more complex age, the Jewish people have some things to say, teach, model.

Mutual obligation and responsibility is the only thing that can save the planet, which is not going to come from Christianity, since Christianity quite deliberately elevated the necessity for belief over action, thus inadvertently divorcing ethics from obligation. Belief that people should do the right thing, to respect human rights, has taken civilization only so far.

It is time to enter into a new global covenant of mutual responsibility and this we can bring into the public arena by making sure we not only instill it in the next generation of Jews, but model it both in our relationship to other Jews and to those in need.

Coming Soon: Ahad Ha’am’s Take


Essays/Ideas, Speeches, Writings


yosefa said:

I love your writing, and normally agree with every word.

Let me start by agreeing with your stance for “Mutual obligation and
responsibility”. I agree entirely, and I think I will agree on most of
what you will end up calling for.

However, I have to disagree with you (and the conventional wisdom) on
globalization, per se.
The acceleration of injustices and gaps between rich and poor is NOT the
consequence of globalization. In fact globalization is a countervailing
force reducing such gaps and injustices.

Globalization is causing localized problems. The global market is
increasing income for millions of Indian and Chinese poor, but is
keeping a lid on real wage growth in the US and other developed
countries. Even the “sweat shop” and environmental issues of third world
factories are helped by globalization. If left to themselves, local
factories in China or India may well be horrible on both these counts -
when they are forced by global brands (and pressure from consumers) to
abide by better standards this actually accelerates adoption of much
better working standards. On both these counts, globalization is helping
in an absolute way (millions of developing country citizens) much more
than it is hurting in the developed world (however horrible the
non-growth in real wages for US workers actually is).
By the way, globalization also is a leading cause of democracy… Not a
bad thing itself.

I imagine one concern you are thinking about is that the wealth of the
top 1% or 10% continues to rise away from the wealth of the rest of the
population. This is not an issue of globalization. This is actually a
far more complex problem. If we were to stop globalization today, by
banning all imports and exports, we would not stop this wealth inequity
from building up. Corruption, the biggest cause of wealth concentration
in the developing world would only get worse without outside competition
and investment and export markets for local producers. In the developed
world the climate of corporate welfare (tax breaks for firms), unalloyed
tax breaks for the rich, and pure greed of corporate managers who are
not acting in the best interest of shareholders is a large cause.

There is one interesting interplay: as I noted, since there is a global
market for labor (which is good for millions or billions in Asia), this
does keep down pay in the developed world. This means that less of the
corporate pie has to go into wages, and so more goes into profit. This
ends up rewarding capital (and capitalists) more than labor. I think
this is temporary (50-100 years) after which time there will be more
global equity on wages and living standards. This may not be in the best
interests of Americans, but it may be in the best interests of humanity.

This is a really complex issue - and calling for the wrong actions
because of a mis-diagnosis can do lots more harm than good.

Here is some more reading (yes, it’s all the biased Economist viewpoint
- I just think they are usually right on this stuff):

In terms of your original thesis - that we are spending too much
pampering the most pampered generation of Jewish kids, and not enough on
the poor of the world - I agree. However, globalization is actually the
answer on a global scale, even if its impacts are complex.

I contend that the “acceleration of injustices and gaps between the rich
and poor” is not caused by globalization - in fact, it may be helped by
it - and we need to look for other causes to find the real issues.

I would be happy to chat more.


February 22, 2006 | Permalink


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