Friday, August 19, 2016

Nils Gilman's "deviant globalization"


Branko Milanovic - on Nils Gilman's The Twin Insurgency. I happily quote from Gilman's article in the spirit of fair academic comment:

The postmodern state is under siege from plutocrats and criminals who unknowingly compound each other’s insidiousness.

States within the global political economy today face a twin insurgency, one from below, another from above. From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires. These empires then deploy their resources to corrupt, coopt, or challenge incumbent political actors.

From above comes the plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists to tax-haven lawyers to currency speculators to mineral-extraction magnates, the new global super-rich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign to limit the reach and capacity of government tax-collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cut-throat business competition.

Well, you can stop right there. False dichotomy.

The only difference between the plutocratic class and criminal class, as identified, is that the former has political and financial power.

And reading the rest of Milanovic's post (lazy me), it seems he agrees:

It is therefore I think massive corruption at the top and ideological change that have empowered the so-called deviant globalization. If president of a country can sell favors, why cannot a drug lord sell his goods? If the rich can open thousands of accounts containing billions of dollars in tax havens, why should a small hotelier in Greece pay taxes? If the law applies selectively, then you need to carve out your dominion where you will be the boss. This is how the extra-state areas of which Nils Gilman writes have come into being.

The essential point to take is that the two insurgencies go together: without plutocratic-criminal insurgency at the top, there would be no deviant criminal insurgency at the bottom. The only point on which I might differ from Gilman is that he applies the adjective “criminal” to the bottom insurgency only.

Good to know I came to the same conclusion as Branko Milanovic.

A bit of googling informs me that Nils Gilman's just writing another article on his long-running topic of deviant globalization. OK, that's fine: there are some features of globalization that are naughty and bad (sorry, I haven't even read the Coles Notes on the topic).

But "deviant globalization" still begs the question of what is the normative globalization that you'd contrast it with, right?

I mean, absent any economic globalization and with all economies closed, you'd still have a slave trade in Mauritania, a child sex trade in Thailand, a hacker trade in eastern Europe, a kleptocracy trade in Russia, and so on. "Globalization" in the economic sense just means the opening of economies, which means all forms of economic behaviour start to cross borders and not just the "normative" ones.

Maybe watching this video will help me understand this?



Yup, it seems that's what Gilman's saying. Globalization provides the space for "deviant" activity to go transnational just as much as normative activity.

But I'm still wondering who gets to call some economic activity "deviant". Is Gilman really advocating for a new economic imperialism, where the West imposes its copyrights and environmental standards on China, its control of refugee flows on the Middle East, and its wildlife respect on Africa? Doesn't that beg the question of whether the West itself is involved in deviant economic activity, or whether the West has ethical superiority?

And thus I guess you get back to Milanovic's two paragraphs, above.

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