Am I anti-globalization?

I don’t think of myself as either “protectionist” or “anti-globalization,” but I suppose some people would be pleased to slap those labels on me anyway.

For one thing, I think people like former presidential candidate Dick Gephardt have a point when they talk about writing minimum global standards for environmental protection and workers’ rights into trade agreements.

As I’ve asked before:

Why should countries which suppress the right of their workers to organize free trade unions– China comes to mind– have the same access to our markets as countries which protect the right to organize?

I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer.

Of course insisting on basic labor rights is not the same as requiring wages and benefits comparable to those in Western countries. I realize that would do immense harm to workers in developing countries. And I have no use for “America first” types like Pat Buchanan, whose message to the rest of the world is essentially, “Screw you. We’ll look out for ourselves.”

But neither do I have any use for those who consider the right to organize as some sort of Western frill which poor countries can do without until they reach a certain level of development. It is in fact one of the most basic human rights, and ought to be a sine qua non for full access to global markets.

Another reason some might want to label me an anti-globalizer is that I share Nicholas Kristof’s concern about how deeply the US has gone into hock with foreign lenders– especially with China, the largest buyer of our debt.

Of course the country’s gigantic debt– largely the result of the Bush administration’s enormous tax cuts and spending increases– would be frightening no matter who was holding the IOUs. But when it provides so much leverage to a country like China– which opposes US interests at almost every turn– it becomes (as Kristof says) a problem of national security.

The current effort by a Chinese company to buy the US oil giant Unocal also concerns many Americans, and rightly so.

Yes, I know the free flow of capital and products across borders has its positive side: greater investment, more jobs, more prosperity for many. But what about the potentially darker side?