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Back to Flat?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Olivia Cook
September 17, 2018

Since 1492, Americans have confidently professed that the world was round… until now. Why is that, you ask? Globalization. Globalization is a major phenomenon that is affecting the national, state and local economic development. Due to the ubiquitous advancement of technology and people living longer, there has been a decreased desire for immigrants to relocate to the United States, as well as for current citizens to remain in the country. The world, round as we once knew it, is actually becoming flattened.

As a result, the United States, is now falling in third place behind both China and India. According to Thomas Friedman’s, in a A Manifesto for a Fast World, he states, “globalization involves the integration of free markets, nation-states and information technologies to a degree never before witnessed, in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and countries to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever. It is also producing a powerful backlash from those brutalized or left behind.” This statement by Friedman is a very powerful one because if the United States, and countries like it, refuse to catch up, we will be left behind. It is important to acknowledge that globalization is an international system allowing companies and individuals to interact with one another more efficiently than ever before. Technology is swifter and cheaper, all while reaching billions of people through a simple search engine or the mere click of a button. It “created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again.” So, with the daily advancements of technology contributing to the rise of globalization, the playing fields are becoming even.

Nationally, it is affecting the U.S., as foreigners are becoming less likely to emigrate and live in the United States. Many will come and receive their education, yet take their talents back to their homeland. The need to stay in the U.S. is becoming less desirable and less profitable for those citizens of foreign countries. This global economic context is also affecting areas within the United States. It is forcing states to compete more aggressively with one another for their residents and revenue. Every state wants to be the best, just as every community within a state wants to be the best community.

However, as globalization becomes more embraced from one culture to the next, the opportunities for globalization are flourishing as well. In Friedman’s, It’s a Flat World, After All, he expresses that the benefits that result from globalization is it “allows us to innovate without having to emigrate, collaborate on research and work in real time, without regard to geography, distance, or (in the near future) even language, and hierarchies are being flattened which means value is being created more horizontally.” This leads to the creation of more jobs in other countries, including our own, increased wages to keep/develop qualified workers, sophisticated technology, improved health care, better education systems and the expansion of global networks. Essentially, opportunity will be everywhere, as long as there are adept workers willing to obtain it. And, since everyone will be on the same playing field, there will be no need to necessarily compete. Each country will be “sharing” citizens, while creating opportunity and reaping their benefits.

As with opportunities, there are also dangers that are seen with the spread of globalization across the world. In my opinion, some of the dangers that will continuously be experienced are the slowdown of national production, a severe labor market shortage and an acceptance of complacency within communities, which means there will be a decreased need for workers in the industrial industry. And, from the looks of it, technology is going to continue to advance. Furthermore, because of this, more skilled and qualified workers will be needed to fulfill more management and administrative positions. The competency level of workers will be increased to keep up with the steady technological innovations. This leaves the labor market at a true deficit, and foreigners with the unfulfilled desire to migrate to the U.S. because of the lack of economic progression in our states and much less, our communities.

The labor market shortage will also create a decline in national production of manufacturing goods, as there will not be enough workers to work the shop-floor production lines. Also, the sophistication of technology will contribute to the loss of those skilled jobs, making it even harder for those who are less qualified but actually want to work and have a job.

Last, I fear communities will become complacent. If everyone is on the same playing field globally, then there will definitely be a decreased drive to compete locally. And, since there will potentially be a “sharing” of citizens, communities will be easily content with their residents’ inability to give back and ill desire to promote and maintain constant economic wealth.


Author: Olivia Cook, MPA, PhD Student, Auburn University, email: [email protected]

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