Is the Anti-Globalization Tide Turning?

Printer-friendly version
Appeared in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

Largely peaceful demonstrations in Ottawa and Calgary put the lie to the old line that the police are responsible for anti-globalist violence. Police in both cities seemed euphoric that the demonstrations were peaceful. It`s hardly pleasant to get dressed up in riot gear, face screaming crowds, suffer flying projectiles - rocks, bottles, ball bearings, even Molotov cocktails - while trying to protect other citizens and property.

The relief expressed by the police is easy to understand in the most human of terms. Of course, the origin of the violence has never been a secret, though dishonest anti-globalist leaders have repeatedly lied and blamed the police for the violence, even as these leaders were calling for demonstrations that included a diversity of tactics. Translation: violence is an acceptable tactic.

Every year in Canada, police peacefully monitor thousands of protests. If the police created violence, then violence would be common.

The dishonestly of anti-globalists leaders clearly showed in demonstrations in Halifax during the meeting of the G8 finance ministers prior to the Kananaskis meeting. During the first couple of days of the meeting, the demonstrations were peaceful. Police representatives publicly praised the demonstrators.

This obviously displeased the hardcore anti-globalists who, without warning, suddenly launched a serious of violent attacks. The police reacted to protect people and property, but police representatives and individual police offices said they were stunned and surprised that peaceful protests had turned violent.

Protest leaders did not surprise when they returned to their hypocrisy and blamed the police. The anti-globalists leaders seemed unconcerned that media tapes showed the protesters not only starting the violence, but also attacking reporters and camera operators for the great sin of showing the truth about the origin of the violence.

Even protesters no longer buy their leaders lies. In Calgary and Ottawa, non-violent protesters - instead of winking at the diversity of tactics -- took responsibility by restraining violence themselves.

I was in Calgary the week of the G8 meeting and the protesters I met emphasized their commitment to non-violence. They knew full well where violence had originated in past demonstrations. In the face of peaceful protests in Calgary, the police did what police do in a democratic society - they respected the right to protest.

As the majority of anti-globalists shrug off their tradition of violent tactics, some are beginning to re-examine their message. The protesters can`t quite leave behind the anti-western rhetoric, but they are beginning to focus on areas where developed nations are harming the world`s poor.

This is through the barriers and subsidies rich nations have erected around foodstuffs, textiles and other labour intensive products. Emerging nations can seldom compete in high-skilled and high-technology areas. Third world workers and companies have neither the expertise nor the capital. Both must develop over time.

But, poor nations can compete in sectors like food and textiles. It`s in those areas that rich nations have erected their thickest trade barriers and spent the most on subsides.

This hurts developing nations in two ways. Firstly, it can devastate local economies. For example, subsidized food from the west - while it keeps rich French farmers happy - has ruined millions of third world farmers who could compete against farmers in developed nations, but not against the resources of rich subsidizing nations.

Secondly, it limits opportunity. Third world workers and companies produce many labour-intensive products that could compete in the first world and which would generate new wealth and opportunity back home. But, all too often, these products can`t get through our trade barriers.

The moral bankruptcy of the anti-globalist movement, until now, is evident in their refusal to support third world nations on issues that really matter. Anti-globalist groups like the Council of Canadians oppose the opening of markets to third world agricultural and textile products.

But now, some of those who claim to want to help the world`s poorest are actually supporting policies that could help relieve third world poverty. Oxfam, for example, has called for the lowering of trade barriers for low-skill products.

Poor nations need more globalization not less. They should have the right to sell freely into rich markets. Some protesters are beginning to understand this.

Subscribe to the Fraser Institute

Get the latest news from the Fraser Institute on the latest research studies, news and events.