“Globalization” has not been neutral. But U.S. elites rigged the game so drastically in their favor that their own population has revolted. The contrast is striking between 2016 and campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s, when Reagan and Clinton, respectively, proclaimed they could lead the world towards a bright, interconnected future.
It’s not realistic or desirable to “deglobalize.” But we could “re-globalize,” changing deals and making relations between nations more equitable. And more urgently, the United States could use some of that substantial new globalization cash to improve life under globalization for its own people and stay true to its democratic promise. What has held it back is political obstinacy and ideological opposition—left over from the Cold War, and perhaps being slowly eroded among the young by Bernie Sanders—to using state policy to help anyone but the rich.
There’s so much that is within America’s power, if it could get past the politics. Provide real relief, and job training, to the working and middle-class American victims of globalization. Or simply re-distribute wealth, in the old-fashioned sense. Or move towards “pre-distribution,” changing corporate governance and creating jobs that will support families by simply allowing workers to get their fair share in the first place. There’s the Scandinavian model, which combines free trade with a robust welfare state. There’s the universal basic income experiment. Or there’s an end to over-reliance on start-up culture, which creates profits but not jobs.
There’s a lot the United States could try. But first, the most powerful country in human history could stop blaming its own inequality problem on the rest of the world.