Students from campus groups including Students for Peace and Justice protested globalization on April 26 outside Social Science Lecture Hall. They voiced their opposition to the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellows Series speaker, Jagdish Bhagwati, professor of economics and law at Columbia University, who spoke in favor of globalization in his lecture, ‘Globalization’s Critics: Why They Are Wrong.’
Due to the constant interruptive chanting, Bhagwati was unable to address many issues relevant to globalization. Rather he spoke about his past encounter with Protesters unwilling to engage in a debate with him
‘Those people should not be at a university,’ Bhagwati said. ‘People at a university should be opening their minds and not closing [them].’
According to Bhagwati, globalization critics have two motivations for their opposition.
‘One is self-interest and the second is altruism,’ Bhagwati said. ‘One is the challenge of the altruistic side and the other is because they are scared like hell. People are somewhere between these two conditions.’
Most critics are driven by empathy, according to Bhagwati. Prior to technological advancements in communication, problems of distant countries had little effect on our conscience. Media now brings global issues into the spotlight locally, causing rich countries to feel morally obligated to intervene.
Bhagwati argued that the fear of losing jobs due to outsourcing is not rational. The need for unskilled labor in general is disappearing and has nothing to do with the influx of unskilled labor.
‘Technical changes are at the heart of the problem,’ Bhagwati said. ‘They displace unskilled labor. Assembly-line jobs are disappearing. Computers and machines are managing it all. Skilled jobs are coming and unskilled jobs are disappearing.’
Outsourcing occurs in low-skilled jobs because if the services were provided in the United States, they would be too expensive. According to Bhagwati, high-skilled labor will not be in danger of being outsourced.
‘Professors outside want to come here and listen,’ Bhagwati said. ‘Lectures are being recorded and traded internationally.’
Bhagwati said that worries about American jobs being lost are unfounded.
Jon Kelman, a second-year political science graduate student, was not pleased by Bhagwati’s lecture.
‘I wasn’t very impressed,’ Kelman said. ‘He spent the first half making fun of people who didn’t agree with his perspective.’
Although the Protesters outside interrupted Bhagwati’s lecture by chanting ‘Stop the killer from speaking,’ they claimed to not be opposed to Bhagwati, but his philosophy.
‘We’re here basically against policies Bhagwati supports, which are trade deregulation, free trade,’ said an anonymous member of Students for Peace and Justice who wished to speak on behalf of the whole group. ‘We believe these lead to exploitation of third-world countries because in a free-market system, countries that do not have the economic power to compete with countries that do become exploited by those who do have power.’