Though Nationalism Grows, Globalization is Still Our Future

Though Nationalism Grows, Globalization is Still Our Future

Globalization is Our Future

I just returned from two weeks in Italy. It was my first time there and it was more beautiful than the pictures I’d seen before of that storied land. And, while I was there being reminded of the rich history of the Italians and the exceptional artists they birthed, I also was aware of their struggles. They, along with all of Europe, with the United States and Canada, are trying to solve immigration and economic issues. Their prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, is philosophically wedded to a nationalist agenda. I found myself thinking, the problems of the day are not local or intra-national. They are global. And, nations must come together to solve them with global solutions. Though nationalism is growing for the moment, globalization is still our future. It is the realization that we are one world.

When one has a problem, it affects the entire body. And, you cannot operate on one part and leave the other parts infirmed.

Nationalist Thinking Will Not Solve Today’s Global Problems

It is not enough for the United States or Italy to secure their borders from migrants. That will not solve the problems of today. Instead, countries must examine the root causes of why people are fleeing their native lands in search of better lives. It’s human nature to look for better conditions. That has been from the very beginning as people migrated from Africa and settled in other parts of the world to create the various nations we have today. (I am not referencing forced migration and slavery, which also led to movement). That search for a better life will continue legally or illegally until good people come together to help change the conditions from which the people flee. Some may say, the problems existing in Libya or Syria or parts of Africa or elsewhere are not ours to fix. It’s that nationalistic thinking that will keep us in the conundrum that we’re in today. We don’t have authority to change their government regimes. That’s correct. Alone, we won’t have the power, resources, or bandwidth to solve a global problem. But a coalition of nations can make a difference.


We are one world and a people emanating from the same blood. When one has a problem, it affects the entire body. And, you cannot operate on one part and leave the other parts infirmed. I know my perspective is optimistic, and to some, even an idealistic one. I also know it is counterintuitive to the isolationist, protectionist, or nationalist perspectives of governments today, especially ours. Conservative, Dr. Jim Eckman wrote, “For much of the 20th century, ideological discussions and debates have centered on liberal versus conservative, left versus right.  No longer.  The ideological divide of the 21st century is emerging as globalism versus nationalism.”  Although I disagree with some points made in the article, I thought it was a great article on the trend toward nationalism and the miscalculations made in the move toward globalism.

Most Americans Agree with Globalization

I believe in globalization. Most other Americans do as well. According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of U.S. adults believe free trade has been a “good thing” for America, while 30% say it’s been a “bad thing.”  Globalization is the breaking down of barriers across nations to facilitate a free flow of goods, services, technologies, capital, and labor. Oh! There’s that word – labor. That’s people. As long as trade was flowing, goods and services were being exchanged, technologies developed in one country were provided to other countries, things seemed to be working. I know there are issues with unfair trade and tariffs. Those are in dispute today as well and sentiments diverge along political party lines. But, the attack on globalization started with labor. When American companies outsourced cheaper labor abroad or employed immigrant labor (even undocumented) at home, the seed of nationalism took root.

Globalization Offers Enormous Benefits

Americans lost their jobs and they looked for someone to blame. They protested against big business and those who outsourced their jobs. But, it didn’t change much. They turned to their government and the deals that were made under President Bill Clinton (e.g., North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) came under fire. Actually, the impetus for free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico started at least a decade earlier in 1980 under President Ronald Reagan. His administration sought to reduce trade costs, improve business investments and strengthen the competitiveness of North American economies in the global marketplace.  President George H.W. Bush continued to work the free trade deal in his administration. Finally, it was President Clinton, whose global trade philosophies were similar to Reagan’s, that modified and signed NAFTA into law in 1993. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama continued to advance our globalization strategies during their terms. Obama gave a prophetic speech in July 2016, when he talked about the “enormous benefits to be gained from that global integration,” but warned of the danger of increased inequality, with workers having less leverage and capital having more leverage. He stated it could result in a backlash.

We are part of a bigger mosaic.

The Backlash of Globalization Led to a Rise in Trump and Nationalism

The backlash that President Obama spoke about two years ago was the opening then-candidate Donald Trump needed to speak to a people who felt they had been largely the brunt of globalization. Now, under the presidency of Trump, the U.S. is redefining the rules of trade, labor, and migration, from an America First – nationalist agenda. Nationalism is a belief in the superiority and independence of a nation above other nations. Merriam-Webster dictionary defined nationalism as, “exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.” For American nationalists, this sounds like patriotism – love of country above all else. For American globalists, this is a warning call that puts our country at greater risk of being left behind, of being an outcast in the global marketplace – the beginning of the end of America as a superpower. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? America isn’t alone in the rise in nationalism. The European Union is fractured due to this same issue of uncontrolled migration and destabilizing economies. This is leading to a nation-first mindset across Europe. I heard a news report where Prime Minister Conte spoke and we’ve all heard about Brexit – the threat of UK’s exit from the European Union.

Global Problems Require Global Solutions

Will globalization survive? An answer is that we are in a global marketplace and opening the pathways to expanded, free trade will continue to be our future. However, as barriers and borders to free trade open to produce greater economic possibilities, they lead to movement of people across those borders in search of jobs and better lives. Just as many nations come together to participate in driving global economic health, so too, they must come together to facilitate solutions for the use of labor across borders. I am not advocating for illegal immigration. I don’t believe anyone is for that. However, I am fundamentally in favor of paths to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants who have lived here most, if not all, of their lives, have been educated, work and pay taxes here, like American citizens. I am also in favor of smart approaches to labor, outsourcing abroad and workforce retraining in the U.S. to keep as many jobs at home as is prudent. And finally, I believe to solve the issue of migrants fleeing and seeking asylum from dictatorships and oppressive conditions, nations must adopt a global plan. It is not enough to close borders and say, “you can’t come in.” We are a nation of laws, yes. We are also a nation that has been on the side of human rights and democracy. We have taken action to oust oppressive regimes before or help the military or even the citizenry to take control of their countries to change for the good.


We’ve seen what a leadership change can do, for example in Zimbabwe. The resignation of dictator Robert Mugabe was forced by threat of a military takeover in November 2017. In the months since being freed from 37 years of autocratic rule, the country is once again gaining economically. Many others are resisting oppressive leaders. Countries like ours, Canada, Italy, and other European countries can have a profound and positive impact on helping create better conditions for people under oppressive rule, which would lessen their need to flee. That’s a globalist perspective. It is my perspective. We are part of a bigger mosaic. We cannot pretend those other people and countries don’t matter; we don’t care what happens to them; or their problems won’t somehow reach our shores. We’ve seen that they do matter, we do care, and they will arrive by any means necessary.

We are a nation of laws, yes. We are also a nation that has been on the side of human rights and democracy.

My caution is to be wary of nationalism. Extreme nationalism has been the cause of wars. Let us not retreat in fear and self-centeredness under a nationalist agenda. Instead, Let us move forward, leading in a global world to gain the benefits of greater integration. Globalization is not without its problems either. We are experiencing the backlash now. While economies may thrive, people must not be sacrificed in free trade. Our destiny lies in solving problems together and making the world a better place for all people.


When we know better, we do better. 


© 2018, Tonya Harris Cornileus, Ph.D.

All Rights Reserved.


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