Academic Word List: Exercise 23

Read the following text, paying particular attention to the highlighted words.

Globalisation

For good or ill, globalisation has become the economic buzz-word of the 1990s. National economies are undoubtedly becoming steadily more integrated as cross-border flows of trade, investment and financial capital increase. Consumers are buying more foreign goods, a growing number of firms now operate across national borders, and savers are investing more than ever before in far-flung places.

Whether all of this is for good or ill is a topic of heated debate. One, positive view is that globalisation is an unmixed blessing, with the potential to boost productivity and living standards everywhere. This is because a globally integrated economy can lead to a better division of labour between countries, allowing low-wage countries to specialise in labour-intensive tasks while high-wage countries use workers in more productive ways. It will allow firms to exploit bigger economies of scale. And with globalisation, capital can be shifted to whatever country offers the most productive investment opportunities, not trapped at home financing projects with poor returns.

Critics of globalisation take a gloomier view. They predict that increased competition from low-wage developing countries will destroy jobs and push down wages in today's rich economies. There will be a "race to the bottom" as countries reduce wages, taxes, welfare benefits and environmental controls to make themselves more "competitive". Pressure to compete will erode the ability of governments to set their own economic policies. The critics also worry about the increased power of financial markets to cause economic havoc, as in the European currency crises of 1992 and 1993, Mexico in 1994-95 and South-East Asia in 1997. Despite much loose talk about the "new" global economy, today's international economic integration is not unprecedented. The 50 years before the first world war saw large cross-border flows of goods, capital and people. That period of globalisation, like the present one, was driven by reductions in trade barriers and by sharp falls in transport costs, thanks to the development of railways and steamships. The present surge of globalisation is in a way a resumption of that previous trend.

That earlier attempt at globalisation terminated abruptly with the first world war, after which the world moved into a period of fierce trade protectionism and tight restrictions on capital movement. During the early 1930s, America sharply increased its tariffs, and other countries retaliated, making the Great Depression even greater. The volume of world trade fell sharply. International capital flows virtually dried up in the inter-war period as governments imposed capital controls to try to insulate their economies from the impact of a global slump.

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