Saturday, December 31, 2016

Nutmeg, NAFTA & Globalization

Look at the history of trade in big products like silver, sugar, spices, and gold.  All these products helped connect the world. But at what price?

This is the subject of a terrific essay by Amtav Gosh, in the New York Times called What Nutmeg Can Tell us About NAFTA. Gosh is author of numerous books, including Sea of Poppies and Flood of Fire,

Gosh reviews the nutmeg trade noting how it connected the world but at the cost of atrocities that included an attempted genocide." Indeed, the methods the British and Dutch used to gain control of the islands are horrific.

He concludes that there is no "inherent merit in connectedness," arguing that violence and death often accompany trade and deepens inequality.

Another example of violence and death associated with globalization was the opium trade.

According to Gosh, most people overlook this side of globalization and equate it with tolerance.  He suggests that "neither cosmopolitanism nor parochialism is a virtue in itself. We need to ask: cosmopolitanism in the service of what? Protectionism to what end?"

It's a terrific review of the spice trade in the early modern period (1450-1750) with interesting ties to the debate about globalization today.

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