The global economy thrives on globalization and the increasing interdependence of finance, production, consumption and trade. Such integration has reduced poverty, yet varying national policies along with ever-increasing speed of transactions and market news have also contributed to imbalances, both among nations and within. Regulations often do not keep pace in managing cross-border debt, foreign direct investment, corporate practices, tax codes or economic bubbles. The eurozone crisis and the US subprime mortgage crisis have demonstrated that one nation’s problems and panic can spread like wildfire. Nations must combine a competitive spirit with cooperation to achieve stable economic growth and sustainable prosperity.
Since human migrations began, germs have traveled with people, animals and traded goods. In an interconnected and mobile world, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and SARS can spread rapidly. Yet international cooperation through agencies such as the World Health Organization also allows for a collective response to global health threats and faster response times. Nations have developed diverse health care systems, aiming for cost-effective treatment. Yet the diverse systems contribute to disparities in global health, including availability of technology, pharmaceutical companies targeting innovations to maximize profits, and providers abandoning areas of need for higher salaries in the West, just to name a few.
A readily measurable aspect of globalization is the increasing exchange of capital, products and services across national boundaries, spurred by expanded use of container shipping and other technological improvements as well as falling barrier. The interdependence is most apparent with global supply chains, as manufactured goods like vehicles and electronics are assembled with components produced around the world, and it’s increasingly rare for any country to be the sole source of any one complex product. Countries aim to increase exports but worry about too many imports and trade imbalances, even as their consumers pursue low prices. Disagreements on subsidies, tariffs, quotas or unfair practices are debated by the World Trade Organization.
Globalization wields powerful influence over societies and cultures. Business travelers and tourists both observe and distribute new ideas. New ideas, interactions, foods and products are tried, then embraced or discarded. With the internet or satellite television, films, publications, photographs, news reports and cartoons can travel instantly, entertaining or angering audiences around the globe. With social media like Facebook or Twitter, individuals offer news and own instant pronouncements on trends. Whether slowly through immigration or immediately online, these connections bring about some convergence of norms on fashion to human rights while also provoking challenges from traditionalists. A global society has emerged, and it’s tightly linked.