In recent years, there has been growing disillusion in with globalization in liberal, Western states as as working class citizens watched their jobs leave them for developing countries. Their views were reflected in the rise of isolationist politics across the world. The United States recently elected Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of “Make America Great Again”, and in Europe, the Brexit referendum and the increasing popularity of parties like France’s National Front and Germany’s AfD have shown a similar trend of isolationist politics. The greatest flaw in this isolationist trend, however, is that it will not solve the unemployment problem that its supporters are facing, nor is globalization a reversible phenomenon. The loss of many blue collar jobs stems mainly from three factors. The first is that technological developments have permanently eradicated certain assembly line, mindless jobs. In addition, emerging countries such as China, India, and Brazil have acquired the power to compete with developed countries, thus in order to maintain competitivity, companies from developed, Western countries have had to export their labor to cheaper areas of the world. And finally, many workers in developed nations, especially in the United States, are not trained well enough for the tasks required of them because of the lack of worker training programs.
A disintegration of the liberal international order championed by Western democracies is dangerous for a variety of reasons. If Western countries turn increasingly inwards, this leads to more room on the global stage for states like Russia and China to flex their political muscles. The progress made since World War II towards free and fair trade, human rights, and other liberal ideals will start declining. In addition, with limited international cooperation, international security would be more difficult. Without an emphasis on alliances and the sharing of intelligence, it would be much more difficult to stop terrorism and other international security threats. Larger issues like climate change and nuclear non-proliferation are also impossible to solve without close international cooperation. A decrease in international economic cooperations would slow down economic growth for all nations as well since there are virtually no large corporations who keep their design, manufacturing, and retail all within one country.
Despite the rather grim forecast, developed countries can create jobs for those who have been laid off so that the idea of isolationism becomes less appealing, since it is neither possible nor preferable to bring already-exported jobs back. The greatest asset of liberal democracies is their vast intellectual wealth. Because of their open political systems, experts and intellectuals around the world have flocked to universities across the U.S. and Europe. The governments of these democracies must harness this resource to continue innovating so that liberal democracies remain ahead of the curve by increasing funding for higher education institutions and grants for rising entrepreneurs. Perhaps more difficult for many developed nations like the United States is the worker training required to fill the jobs created by new innovations and technologies. Other liberal democracies like the United States can learn from Germany’s vocational education and apprenticeship programs. Through these programs, young people may start working shortly after graduating high school in companies that require skilled labor. This would be a change in mentality for especially the United States, which encourages all students to go to university, regardless of the students’ personal inclinations. Finally, many government restrictions and taxes put on businesses in developed countries must be lifted so that it is as economically viable for companies to build in their home countries as it would be for them to build in nations like China and India.
There is no quick solution to the changing job markets across the world and there is no reversing the changes that have already occurred. But, if liberal democracies can use their assets to innovate and remain competitive in the global market, there is a strong chance that the international order they created will endure.
Article by MoCo Student Staff Writer Fonda Shen of Richard Montgomery High School