by Translation Guy on August 12, 2011

Translators are big on globalization, it being good for business and all. Plus globalization is good for the globe, so to speak, as globalistas shake hands around the world, more harmony, more prosperity, it’s a small world after all. You know the song. A world of laughter, a world of tears… Even if you think globalization is flat-earth evil, just corporate behemoths sucking up local cultures and spitting out Starbucks, globalization is still filed under “unstoppable juggernaut.”

But what if globalization is all globaloney? That’s what Pankaj Ghemawat of the University of Navarra calls it in his new book, World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It. With only 10 to 25 percent of economic activity happening beyond national borders (most of which is regional rather than international, mind you), globalization numbers don’t quite add up to a global phenomenon.

International mail represents 1% of global mail sent. International phone calls, less that 2% of calls made. It’s a bit brighter digitally, with about 17% of World Wide Web traffic actually being worldwide. Rest is domestic. Foreign-owned patents, 15%; exports as share of GDP 26%; foreign-owned equity, 20%; first generation immigrants, 3%. Nine out of 10 global citizens will never, ever leave their home country.

Not great, but not all that bad, surely. In fact, that might be all the proof that Thomas Friedman needs to prove that the world is flat, that is, “a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration on research and work in real time, without regard to geography, distance, or, in the near future, even language.”

Ghemawat trashes him and other globalization pollyannas for ignoring the two key factors behind what really makes the globe go ’round. Distance, in miles, is what keeps the local in global, and culture is close behind. “A 1 percent increase in geographic distance between two locations leads to about a 1 percent decrease in trade between them.” That’s a “Doh!” statement for anyone who’s filled an SUV gas tank anytime recently. (Full disclosure: that’s me… had to get a lock for my gas cap too.) Here’s another golden rule of internationalization: “Two countries with a common language trade 42% more than otherwise.” In the same trade block (NAFTA for example), there’s a 47% increase in trade, and common currency increases trade by a whopping 114%.

Chalk it up to trust. And we trust what we know. Globalization has a long way to go.

Thanks to Michael Shermer, Scientific American‘s official skeptic, for his review of Ghemawat’s reality check, since I haven’t read the book yet.


  1. Luke says:

    interesting perspective, but no matter how you show the numbers globalization happening rapidly and not to the best interest of most nations.

  2. globalization is a bit like the greenhouse effect: a lot of scare but not much substance.

  3. Sherri Kelly says:

    “sucking up local cultures and spitting out Starbucks” is exaclty what is happening!

  4. May says:

    it is always the English-speaking nations that benefit, spreading their “wealth”: pollution, abuses, and disruption of culture.

  5. Tamara Horn says:

    Globalization benefits not only the richer countries. Jobs are most welcome in many of these countries and the opportunity to learn English.

  6. Honey Bear says:

    Thanks for sharing this article. I’m glad that someone has spoken up for globalization. Or at least show that it is not as bad as it is portrayed to be.

  7. Prince says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jimmy Gordon says:

    the question we need to ask ourselves is how we can make the process better for the globe…more sustainable, better energy use, fair practices…

  9. Joan Garner says:

    I don’t care if it is quickly or slowly, but the fact that this globalization phenomenon is happening should be a concern and I do not like it.

  10. I have read several of Thomas Friedman’s books and I find him to be well researched and informative. Read it for yourselves before making judgements.

  11. reading this article makes me cringe. It is like someone saying there are some human rights abuses going on in….but it’s only slight so it’s OK. Statistics are supposed to be the pacifier here??

  12. Globalization has a long way to go?? It sounds as if you cannot wait for it to take over!

    • Ken says:

      Interesting question. Globalization has already taken over my life for sure. As for everyone else, I guess its good for business.But I can wait.

LiveZilla Live Chat Software