Give Global Capitalism A Chance

It doesn't parse. Charlene Barshefsky, acting U.S. trade representative, is off championing global capitalism by tearing down national barriers to telecom trade. At the same time, Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State, embarks on a mission to expand NATO by drawing new military-political lines down the middle of Europe. The glaring inconsistency highlights the simple fact that the ghosts of the Cold War continue to tug at U.S. foreign policy. It would be a serious mistake to redraw the military-political maps of Europe and Asia before the pluralism-producing forces of global capitalism are given a chance to work their democratic magic.

The forces of global capitalism are acting as a powerful solvent to political authoritarianism. In Korea and Taiwan, free elections have replaced military dictatorships, and mercantile control by a few powerful groups is giving way to a more decentralized, market-oriented economy. Similar things are occurring in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.

There is every reason to hope that Russia and China follow. Russia is already a democratic market economy of sorts. Elections are basically free, and the economy is no longer dominated by the state. True, a small band of Russian robber barons has taken control of much of the economy. But a decade of 6% annual growth would raise living standards and undermine the extremists who would return to empire--the people Albright is building walls against.

It could very well be that elites in China and Russia are trying to harness capitalism not to benefit individual consumers but to project national military and political power around the world. The U.S. military must be prepared for this.

But it is at least as likely that global capitalism will generate the kind of wealth and pluralism that paves the way for stable democracies in both Russia and China. Before erecting military and political walls that may provoke the kind of behavior they are designed to defend against, the U.S. just might give global capitalism time to defeat dictatorship.

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