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My Name is Matthew. I Am a Globalist.

"As a proud globalist and a proud American, I am perplexed and dismayed to see so many Americans starting to think of the two as mutually exclusive. As though globalization were a threat to our American identity, a game we can’t win."

Article by Matthew Rooney April 26, 2018 //   6 minute read

I am not a globalist because I am some kind of citizen of the world. On the contrary, I am a globalist because I am a proud American -- that is, a person with Irish, English and German roots, born in Pennsylvania, raised in Massachusetts, who came of age in Texas.  I am a globalist because a career as a Foreign Service officer representing the United States in Africa, Europe, and Latin America showed me firsthand the power of our country’s positive-sum vision of the world.

As a proud globalist and a proud American, I am perplexed and dismayed to see so many Americans starting to think of the two as mutually exclusive. As though globalization were a threat to our American identity, a game we can’t win.

This is particularly ironic because, in its contemporary form, globalization’s roots are to be found in American diplomacy in the years after the Second World War. But the “big bang” of globalization can actually be dated quite specifically:  9:30 p.m. Central European Time on Thursday, November 9, 1989.

At that moment, the East German government declared that East Germans were free.

At that moment, the Berlin Wall was reduced to an artifact.

And at that moment, Communism was repudiated by its most ardent supporters and the Cold War was over.

It was a great victory for the United States, and a great opportunity.

Billions of people who had previously walled themselves off from the global economy tore down those walls -- in some cases literally -- and reached for the prosperity and opportunity that we had promised them the global market could provide. 

The United States responded to this unique opportunity with a series of proposals that shaped the rules of the global marketplace according to American principles and practices. In effect, those billions of newly freed people did what we had been advising them to do for most of a century: They worked, they bought and sold, they manufactured, they imported, and they exported. They competed. 

And it worked. Governments withdrew from large swathes of the market, freedom of choice for consumers and entrepreneurs rose around the world, and billions of people were lifted out of poverty.

Then came September 15, 2008.

The ensuing recession was a human tragedy across the U.S. and the world that laid bare longstanding underlying stresses and undermined confidence that the American approach was effective. With the emergence of China as a major factor on the global market, and accelerating innovation, some people wonder whether the American model is played out. Maybe the Chinese model of state-led capitalism and neo-mercantilism is better adapted to the realities of today.

At the same time, a populist-nationalist backlash has arisen against the global structure Americans built. It appears to be rooted in a suspicion that the global game is stacked against us and we can’t win. How can that be, when we wrote the rules?

Based on the data, we in fact can win. And we do win. And not just because we wrote the rules: Our industry remains the global gold standard for dynamism and innovation.

The idea that America is the loser on the global marketplace is news to our competitors. The Europeans have been trying for years to reform their labor markets in an effort to reach our job creation rates. The Japanese are just now starting to see our growth rates for the first time in a generation. Our Mexican friends would give anything to have our productivity levels -- not to mention our institutional stability. Our Canadian friends obviously covet our climate -- more than one Canadian in ten owns real estate in the U.S. -- but why does their Prime Minister visit San Francisco every time he comes south of the 49th Parallel?  He is courting the technology industry on behalf of Toronto and Montreal in hopes of copying our ability to innovate.

At the Bush Institute, we have looked at globalization since NAFTA and its impacts on American growth, job creation, trade, and competitiveness. We have looked at the impact of immigrants on our economy. We see a largely positive picture of growing prosperity based on stable demographics, innovation, and rising productivity.

But we recognize that too many in our country still struggle to reach the middle class, and that many Americans feel left behind and betrayed by the globalization of our economy.  We understand that it is incumbent on those of us who believe in the transformative power of the global marketplace to propose policies that help restore our nation’s faith in our ability to compete.  We have done it repeatedly in the past and there is no reason we can’t do it again now.

I am a globalist because I am an American who is not afraid of the future.

This essay, which draws from remarks that Bush Institute Economic Growth Director Matthew Rooney gave at the Bush Center's Forum on Leadership, appeared last week on the Real Clear World site.