TLV Deep Dive: The History—and Future—of Globalization«Back


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TLV Deep Dive: The History—and Future—of Globalization
August 31, 2019

Wishing you and yours a happy Labor Day Weekend!


In this TLV Deep Dive:
- To better grasp the debate between globalization and nationalism gripping our world, there is value in putting it in the context of the historical ebb and flow of both.
- The roots of globalism date back to the first time homo sapiens traded goods. The tension between the nation-state and global order is relatively new; what does this mean about the future of both? Especially with the introduction of internet and AI technologies, which are proving to supersede the nation-state?
- There are signals that the world might be in the throes of the uncomfortable, unpredictable demise of the modern era of globalization. Will a debate between the ideas of globalization and nationalism, capitalism and socialism suffice? Or will an entirely new concept carry us into a new era of globalization? And who will lead the charge?

THE HISTORY—AND FUTURE—OF GLOBALIZATION

The 2016 presidential election put many hot button topics front and center, perhaps most notably the debate between globalization and nationalism. Since that time, the debate, which is also playing out in Europe, has yielded no clear answers or solutions.
 
The tension between globalization and nationalism has us asking: what is the best kind of government and economic system?
 
The benefits of globalization include greater global prosperity, peace, and cooperation. Yet the consequence seems to be the deindustrialization of developed national economies and the expansion of the income and wealth divide.
 
Nationalism, on the other hand, provides a defined structure for international order (independent nation-states) and a system for independent governments to advocate in the best interests of its citizens. Yet nationalism tends to come with more protectionist trade policies that can shrink national economies and, in some cases, the global economy along with them.
 
The negative consequences of globalization appear to have many in the United States believing a better future can be had through a socialist economic system. Proponents believe that a “better” managed economy is the only way to ensure wealth can be more fairly and evenly distributed. 
 
To capitalists, governments are incapable of managing the economy in a way that maintains any shred of liberty or equal access to economic participation, and free markets will always know best. Capitalists also argue that the conversation around socialism is high-minded at best and contradictory on its face; without capitalism, there would be no money to finance sustainable socialism.
 
While most debate the merits of old and existing ideas to confront new problems, there is a small chorus of people hollering that this time is different. That internet and AI technologies, by their very nature, raise new issues about what a nation and globalization are. Amorphous, borderless, hyper accessible, and interconnected—and uniquely susceptible to threats—today’s technologies and their derivatives do not fit squarely into the nation or the globe. Yet they appear to have become the driving force of both.
 
Relative to the millennia-long ebb and flow of globalization and nationalism, is this time different? Could familiar ideas light the path out of the current political and economic divides unmooring so many governments and nations? Or will it take something entirely new?
 
To answer that question, let’s take a look at how we got here.
 
Globalization Defined
First, we need to define globalization.
 
Globalization is a term with many definitions and contexts. It can speak to the flow of ideas, cultures, goods, religions, and people across lands and continents. It can also refer to the interconnectivity of localities; the more connected more localities become, the more expansive the domain of the global and the more the world shrinks.
 
When it comes to the economy, globalization refers to trade of goods, services, technologies, labor, and ideas; specifically, it concerns the nature and existence of barriers to trade and the free flow of exchange and communication between and amongst nations and individuals. The World Bank defines globalization as: “Freedom and ability of individuals and firms to initiate voluntary economic transactions with residents of other countries.” 
 
THE HISTORY OF GLOBALIZATION
 
Trade and the exchange of ideas date back to the first time homo sapiens realized they could trade this hide for that grain; or nomads crisscrossed lands, encountered new peoples, and exchanged ideas and stories. These small transactions—compelled by the distinctly human need to discover, cooperate, and create—would irreversibly trigger the force of history towards globalization.
 
Various economists and historians slice up globalization’s history differently and apply different terms to it. For our purposes, we’ll use archaic globalization, proto globalization,andmodern globalization.
 
Historically, globalization has persisted and expanded thanks to two mechanisms: conquest/imperialism and trade. In its more recent iteration, conquest/imperialism has evolved into something new: global cooperation.
 
Archaic Globalization: 10,000 BCE – 1400s CE
 
The Trades of Early Civilization
The first agricultural revolution, around 10,000 BCE, caused a massive shift in how humans lived. As we transitioned from a hunter and gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural one, the need to wander for food and survival diminished. During this Neolithic Period, or New Stone Age, humans began settling around the Fertile Crescent, where the land and climate were favorable to agriculture. The first known civilization is believed to be Sumer in southern Mesopotamia (an area that primarily surrounds the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and is today along the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border), with archeological artifacts dating back to 6500 BCE.
 
Once humans were settled, they no longer needed to rely almost totally on themselves for every need or want. Now there were neighbors who farmed wheat, neighbors who made farming tools, neighbors who made clay pots, neighbors who had meat, and so on. Naturally, humans realized they could trade goods instead of sourcing, finding, growing, and making everything themselves.
 
The first known long distance trade dates back to 3000 BCE, when merchants from Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley—a region that today sits on the border between Pakistan and India—traded goods. Where local trade involved practical goods, early long-distance trade was reserved for luxury goods. Along the trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley traveled expensive spices, textiles, and precious metals. Given how many middlemen were required to keep trade moving along this route, trade could only exist for those who could afford luxury items. By the time a spice or precious metal reached its destination, its value had been marked up each time it passed a middleman’s hands.
 
Despite the inaccessible nature of participating in long-distance trade, the concept of the trade network was established. There was no turning back. Humans were officially on the march of globalization.
 
In 3200 BC, the Phoenicians, who developed city-states on a narrow strip of land that today make up part of Lebanon, established themselves as manufacturing and maritime leaders. At their peak, from about 1500 BCE to 332 BCE, they negotiated with multiple trade partners across the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians were skilled artisans and craftsmen; artifacts of their glass sculptures and purple dye, coveted by royalty, have been found as far away as modern-day Britain. Key trading partners were the neighboring advanced civilizations of the Hittites (who lived in what is modern day Turkey), Ancient Egyptians, Mycenaeans (Ancient Greeks), and Minoans (modern day Crete).
 
Phoenicia's trade routes circa 800 BCE 
(Click here to see a clearer version)
 

Trade was now taking place overland and over water, and everyone wanted in. And why wouldn’t they? What human would want to return to the laborious, less modern lifestyle of total self-sufficiency, having to source or make everything from food to clothes to shelter? And what human can resist the pull of opportunities to accumulate wealth or concentrate power and influence? Even Cyprus, once a lonely island of little significance, thrust itself into prominence via trade, hawking its highly sought copper with trade partners along the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Given that proper roads had yet to be built, waterways were the most efficient way to transport goods. The Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in modern day Iraq, and the Yellow River in China saw the movement of all manner of goods, from papyrus to wool to jade, amongst several cultures. Cities cropped up all along these waterways to exploit the opportunity to profit as hubs and ports of trade.
 
When camels were domesticated, approximately around 1100 BCE, overland trade became more feasible and efficient. As a result, meaningful trade opened up between the Mediterranean and India. Several trade routes relied on both caravans of camels and seafaring. Wherever a port or caravan pit-stop was needed, towns (many of which remain modern day cities in Greece and Italy) along this new trade network took root to get in on the game. 
 
Goods moved freely and openly across kingdoms and city-states. The ancient world, small as it was, was truly global. Until it wasn’t. 
 
Historian Eric Cline investigated the collapse of these ancient civilizations, which were quite sophisticated and advanced. In his book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, he pores over the evidence and deduces it was a perfect storm of earthquakes, drought, famine, internal rebellions, and migration (and a potential invasion of some civilizations). Precise as his book title is, Cline acknowledges that the collapse appears to have happened around 1177 BC, and it would take hundreds of years for its effects to ripple across the dominant civilizations and kingdoms of the day. At a minimum, the collapse would leave the door open for other civilizations to stake their claim as players in global trade.
 
The Silk Road, Take 1: The Han Dynasty
The most important trade route by far to take shape during archaic globalization was the Silk Road. While the value of trades along the Silk Road was tiny relative to total economy, the Eastern and Western worlds were officially and forever linked. 
 
The Silk Road started under the fiercely protective Han Dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE), which built the Great Wall to safeguard their goods and trade route. The 4,000-mile Silk Road launched from the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an (also famous for the Terra Cotta Warriors) and ended in the Roman Empire. It was cooperation between these two large powers that allowed trade along the road to remain predominantly peaceful and functional. Along its path traveled Chinese, Indian, Arab, Turkmen, Persian, Somali, Greek, Syrian, Roman, Armenian, and Bactrian traders. Silk went west; and gold, silver, and wool went east. But that wasn’t all that was “traded” on the Silk Road; so too were ideas, medicines, technologies, and religions, specifically Christianity and Buddhism. 
 
The Ancient Silk Road, roughly 200 BCE to 400 CE
 
 
When the Roman Empire fell in the 4thcentury CE, so too did one of the Silk Road’s biggest cooperative partners. Simultaneously, Arabian power was rising in the Levant. The sum total of regional power shifts along the route meant that the Silk Road was no longer safe, and it became increasingly untraveled, eventually to a point of irrelevance.
 
The Islamic Golden Age & the Spice Route
While Europe fell into the Dark Ages after the fall or the Roman Empire, the 6thand 7thcenturies CE saw the rise of Arabian world through the spread of Islam. The religion’s prophet and founder Mohammed and his wife Khadija were both merchants. Thus, trade was deeply intertwined with Islam. Where Muslim traders went, often so too did the Muslim religion. By the 8thcentury, the Arab World was officially in the Islamic Golden Age, a period marked by relative peace, continued expansion of influence, learning and the arts, and prosperity, much of which derived from extensive trade networks. By the 9thcentury, Muslims controlled nearly all trade across the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. As their trade networks grew, their influence spanned from as far east as Indonesia and as far west as Moorish Spain. 
 
Political Map, 750 CE, at the height of the Omayyad Caliphate (in green), or global Islamic community
("caliph" is the ruler of the global Islamic community)
(Click here to see a clearer version)
 
 
Islamic merchants peddled primarily in spices, which, since ancient times, had been traded mostly by sea. Spices such as cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves were rare in the west and therefore costly but highly desired goods. The Spice Islands, a small group of islands to the northeast of Indonesia, were big players in the spice trade, as they were the world’s largest producers of mace, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. Spices were often traded for Chinese silks, Indian cottons, Arabian coffee, and African ivory. Similar to the Silk Road, the total value of Spice Route trades was relatively low; but demand for spices did cause more and more intercontinental trade pathways to take shape.
 
The Spice Route, marked by red arrows
 
The Spice Route would take on new significance in the proto globalization era, when European empires and corporations hijacked and controlled several trading networks. But not before one last resurgence of the Silk Road.
 
The Silk Road, Take 2: The Mongolian Empire
After steadily conquering and uniting the Mongolian people, Genghis Khan set his eyes farther afield. From about 1202 until his death in 1227, the vicious and strategic conqueror seized most of Eurasia. In 25 years, he and his ruthless army conquered more land than the Romans did in 400 years. After his death, a succession of several of his sons and grandsons continued to push the border of the Mongol Empire across Central Asia, China, the Middle East, and into Europe until the empire’s decline, which began in the later 1300s.
 
Despite having rulers known for being infamously brutal, willing to slaughter anything and everything in their path to power, the Mongol Empire was oddly accommodating of its subjugated. Once conquered and assimilated, the various groups that now lived under the Mongol Empire, ironically, lived mostly in peace. The Pax Mongolica (1280 – 1360) saw an unprecedented exchange, not only of goods but also of ideas, cultures, and religions along the resuscitated Silk Road. In fact, the free exchange of ideas and religions was encouraged under Mongol rule—so long as it didn’t impede imperial objectives.
 
Thanks to imperial rule, movement along the Silk Road was protected and safe. Even travel was also allowed along the path. As a result, people from all kinds of cultures were passing along the vast network, staying at inns along the road, and socializing with disparate people. Where trade routes had, to date, primarily carried only goods and middlemen, now the Silk Road lead traders, soldiers, explorers (most famously, Marco Polo), merchants, missionaries, monks, migrants, pilgrims, and refugees. Each brought with them new ideas, domesticated animals, plants, farmed foods, to name some. Within the Mongol Empire, diverse people and their cultures and different religions were tolerated and flourished. According to one historian, Ma Debin, the Mongol-ruled Silk Road was the world’s first melting pot.  
 
The Mongol Empire at its greatest expanse in 1279 and the dawn of the Pax Mongolica
(Click here for a time lapse map of Mongolian conquests from 1206 – 1279)
 
 
In addition to bridging east and west, the exchange of science, medicine, and gunpowder—and the eventual and first unification of Russia—rank high among impacts of the Silk Road. The Mongols began borrowing scientific knowledge from Persia, India, China, and Arabia. Medicines were routinely traded. The Mongols began opening hospitals to offer care for soldiers, often employing doctors from India and the Middle East. In turn, Europeans began adopting medicines and healthcare practiced in the Mongol Empire. The Mongols also introduced guns and gunpowder to the west, the consequence of which needs little explanation.
 
In the late 1300s and throughout the 1400s, mounting revolts among native Chinese presented an ongoing threat to Mongol rule. Simultaneously, in-fighting and a lack of clear rules for the peaceful transition of power would weaken the empire significantly and precipitate its decline. The final nail in the coffin for the Mongol Empire was the spread of the bubonic plague. Native to fleas that lived on marmots in the China steppes, the devastating disease traveled from central China all the way to Europe­­—by way of the Silk Road. From 1300 to 1400, the Black Death caused China’s population to drop from 115 million to 75 million. In Europe, the plague took the lives of roughly 25% of its population. The plague hastened the closure of the Silk Road, and an era of vibrant and free exchange on a scale yet unseen to humans came to an end.
 
Proto Globalization: Early 1400s – Late 1700s
 
The gray area between the end of archaic globalization and the beginning or proto globalization coincides with the fall of the Mongol Empire and the burgeoning of the Age of Exploration (approximately 1400 – 1800). While long-distance trade saw a precipitous decline in the 1400s, overseas exploration—enabled by the Scientific Revolution’s advances in fields of astronomy, mechanics, physics, and shipping—picked up steam in the early 1400s. The Age of Exploration saw the rise of colonialism (the desire of a colony to expand its power over other people or territories, usually to multiply trade opportunities) and mercantilism (economic policy structured to maximize local exports) as predominant imperial/national policies.
 
Portugal and Spain: The First Europeans to Set Sail
The Portuguese were the first to set sail in sight of new lands, discovering the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira (off the coasts of Portugal and Morocco, respectively), the coast of Africa, and the sea route to India. One of the century’s most consequential feats was when Portugal reached the Spice Islands by ship in 1512. The other two most consequential discoveries came from rival Spain, first with Christopher Columbus’ accidental discovery of the Americas in 1492. (Columbus had set sail with the goal of reaching East Asia, including the Spice Islands, to open trade and spread Christianity). And second when Ferdinand Magellan’s crew became the first humans to circumnavigate the globe from 1519 to 1522—a historic milestone in the march towards a smaller, shrinking world.
 
Numerous additional expeditions followed for centuries to come by several competing European powers across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. As more European empires discovered more lands, they also completed many land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia, typically conquering and exploiting native peoples along the way to extend colonial power.
 
Portugal and Spain in the first century of the Age of Discovery: 
dueling expeditions & territorial possessions
(Click here for a larger map)
 

After reaching the shores of the Spice Islands in 1512, the Portuguese conquered its inhabitants and began a process of dramatically changing both the Spice Route and the future of globalization. Up to this point, the Spice Route was still controlled by North Africans and Arabs and persisted through its hybrid overland and over ocean pathways in the Middle East. The continued use of several cost-multiplying middlemen to transport spices along the original Silk Route meant that spices remained predominantly a luxury item. But when the Portuguese subjugated these islands, they commandeered the spice crops. The elimination of middlemen drove down the costs of spices. Spices became much more accessible but still created massive wealth for the Portuguese. 
 
While the Portuguese were extending their colonial reach around the Indian Ocean, the Spanish were exploring and conquering the Americas. Explorer-led expeditions and groups of conquistadores (a motley crew of artisans, merchants, clergy, lesser nobility, and freed slaves who volunteered and typically supplied their own equipment for expeditions in exchange for a share of profits generated from them) landed in all areas of the Americas—from modern day Haiti, to Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the U.S., to name some—discovering new crops and plants, exchanging goods, and subjugating peoples to expand Spain’s colonial power. 
 
The exchange between the Old World (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and the New World (the Americas and, eventually, Australia) was dubbed the Columbian Exchange, named after Columbus. It is a loaded term and concept, capturing both the vibrant and globe-altering transfer of new crops, ideas, foods, animals, culture, technologies, and migrants across the Atlantic Ocean, and its darker sides. The Columbian Exchange also refers to the forced migration of slaves from Africa to the New World, as well as the numerous communicable diseases Europeans brought with them that decimated entire populations of slaves and natives in the New World. 
 
The trade of crops on the Columbian Exchange introduced a range of foods and agriculture to both the Old and New Worlds. The New World provided corn, tomatoes, potatoes, vanilla, rubber, cacao, and tobacco, to name some. While the Old World provided citrus, apples, bananas, mangoes, onions, coffee, wheat, and rice, also to name some. However, by far the most consequential transfer on the Columbian Exchange was that of people—those forced into enslavement in the New World and those seeking it out for new opportunity and, eventually, freedom from tyranny and religious persecution. 
 
The Dutch Make Their Move
By the late 1500s, the Portuguese were struggling to keep up with demands of Spice Route trade, which caused prices to spike. In 1580, in an effort to regain power and stability, the Kingdom of Portugal agreed to a dynastic union with the Spanish Crown, bringing the entire Iberian Peninsula under Spanish Habsburg rule (which lasted until 1640). 
 
Portugal’s challenges opened the door for the Dutch. In 1598, the Dutch sent out several trading ships, with the first landing in the Spice Islands in 1599. Three years later, the Dutch government directed the formation of the Dutch East India Company (DEIC). Where, up to this point in proto globalization, trade had primarily been a process of colonialism in an effort to gain exclusive control over valuable resources and various trade routes, the DEIC was the first corporation not only to control but also monopolize trade routes. It was also among the first international corporations, and certainly the most successful of its day.
 
The DEIC was a government-directed merger of several dueling Dutch trading companies, with the intention of unifying and fortifying Dutch trading power and colonial capacity, particularly in India and Southeast Asian lands. Its structure was unique. Because of its purpose, the Dutch government gave the company semi-governmental powers to facilitate its rise and influence. The DEIC was allowed to start wars, prosecute convicts, negotiate treaties, and colonize lands and peoples. It also had an organizational structure of shareholders, who were crucial partners in the success of DEIC because their liability was limited by what was paid into it, which established the blueprint of the future limited liability company.
 
In 1602, the DEIC’s first year, the Dutch government granted it a 21-year charter of the Spice Islands, giving it a monopoly over the spice trade. However, DEIC was met with fierce competition from the East India Company (EIC) out of Great Britain. In an attempt to defuse mounting tensions, the companies formed a partnership in 1620 that ended three years later when DEIC traders tortured and massacred English, Portuguese, and Japanese traders. As a consequence, the EIC retreated from the Spice Islands and turned its sights on India.
 
Over the course of the 1600s, the DEIC expanded its monopoly and further colonized the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia) and lands across Asia, steadily chipping away at the Portuguese Empire’s hold in Ceylon and Sri Lanka. It also expanded into and established trading posts in South Africa, Persia, Bengal, Malacca, Siam, Formosa (Taiwan), and Malabar, to name some. By 1669, the DEIC was the richest company the world had seen. 
 
By 1750, the DEIC had approximately 25,000 people in its employ and conducted business in ten Asian countries. By the end of the 18thcentury, however, corruption and mismanagement forced the company into bankruptcy, with its holdings given over to the Dutch monarch until it was eventually dissolved. 
 
The Dutch East India trade network in the 17thcentury
(Click here for a larger map)
 
 
The Rise of the Largest Empire the World Has Ever Seen
While the DEIC dominated the Spice Islands region, Great Britain was busy building what would become the largest empire known to man. While Great Britain’s first attempts at colonization over in the Spice Islands didn’t go well, they were undeterred. Similar to how the Dutch colonized, most of Great Britain’s piecemeal colonization and empire building was through companies and magnates, often with little direct involvement from the English crown. 
 
The East India Company was one of the most significant players in British colonization efforts. After departing the Spice Islands in the 1620s, it turned its focus to India. The EIC established trading centers in what would become Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. Eventually, the company had to retain private armies to defend trading posts from Indian uprisings; invaders, such as Persians and Afghanis; and the French, who were on a campaign to seize British trading posts. Tensions came to a head at the 1757 Battle of Plassey, where EIC armies fended off French-backed Indian fighters. As a result, EIC took control of Bengal, which meaningfully grew the company’s holdings and dealt a serious blow to France, the British Empire’s most famous foe of the era.
 
EIC traders made vast sums of money over their many trade monopolies across India. And they were not shy about flaunting their wealth on trips back to Great Britain. The unseemly gloating tipped the crown off to widespread corruption amongst British traders in India. As a result, the crown took control of some EIC company affairs, including appointing the EIC’s highest official, the governor-general. This would set the stage of the crown’s gradual assumption of rule and occupation of India.
 
By the end of the 18thcentury, Great Britain’s impending global dominance—which would peak in the 19thcentury—was well underway. While it had lost its American colonies in the Revolutionary War, it had possessions in Canada, Central and South America, India, and Africa.
 
The British Empire in 1800: its possessions in pink
(Click here for a larger view)
 
 
For most of the 17thand 18thcenturies, the British crown’s involvement in its colonies and possessions remained limited to trade and shipping. Abiding a mercantilist economic philosophy, Britain viewed its colonies as sources of raw materials and goods. In turn, England granted the colonies monopolies for local goods and products, e.g. sugar, cotton, tobacco, in the British market. As conditions, all colonial transportation of goods was to be on English ships, and colonies were to serve as markets for British manufactured goods. Such monopolies and colonial trade restrictions would dominate until Adam Smith published Wealth of Nationsin 1776, which sparked the free-trade movement that Britain, and many other nations, would shift towards in the 19thcentury—the era of modern globalization.
 
Modern Globalization
 
Three themes pushed modern globalization through its evolution from the 1800s to today: imperialism, trade, and cooperation. 
 
Modern Globalization: The Imperial Story
In the 19thcentury, The British Empire would so relentlessly occupy and colonize lands that by the century’s end, it ruled nearly one-fourth of the world’s land surface and more than a quarter of the total global population across every inhabited continent on earth. (For a laundry list of the lands it colonized in the 1800s, follow this link and read the “Dominance and Dominions” section.) 
 
The British Empire at its peak, 1921
 (Click here for a larger view)
 
 
In 1839, Lord Durham—governor-general and lord high commissioner of Canada—suggested to the British government the idea of “responsible self-government” for Canada, whereby the practice of Canadians selecting their own government ministers would replace the practice of the crown appointing them. Local Canadian ministers would largely manage local affairs. The governor-general acting on behalf of the British government would continue to manage decisions of foreign affairs and defense.
 
This flexible model was so successful in Canada that the British Empire extended it to colonies inhabited largely by Europeans and already utilizing many British customs and practices. By 1847, Australia, New Zealand, and Cape Colony and Natal (both are parts of South Africa today) were all granted this status of “dominion.” As a collective, they were referred to as the British Commonwealth. World War I and World War II would strain the commonwealth’s ties. When Britain declared war on Germany in WWI, it was on behalf of the entire British Empire. By the time of WWII, the dominions made their own declarations of war. 
 
The rest of Britain’s colonies were granted no such freedoms and flexibilities, causing growing nationalist sentiment across many of them. An unsuccessful uprising in India against British rule took place between 1857 and 1858. The result lead to the dissolution of the EIC and the full assumption of British occupation over India. The traditional structure of Indian society further eroded, and tensions remained high between natives and British colonizers. Finally, in the aftermath of WWII and new efforts to use globalization to minimize war, Great Britain granted India full independence in 1947. By the 1960s, the only remaining British Empire colony was Hong Kong, which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
 
As Great Britain was systematically restoring power to former colonies, it was clear that the transition of former colonies to sovereigns would require process and organization. The British Commonwealth of Nations was established in 1931. Entrance to former colonies was voluntary and association allowed various forms of diplomatic connections to Great Britain. The Commonwealth, which has gone through several evolutions since its founding (including dropping “British” from its title in 1946), began with five member states and has grown to 53 today. Member states can arrange different ties to the Commonwealth of Nations, ranging from official to merely cultural (e.g. participation in the Commonwealth Games, a sporting event every four years for member states). The aim of the Commonwealth is to unite people of highly disparate background, histories, religions, and languages through the common values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Today, the Commonwealth is often criticized as primarily symbolic. 
 
The 53 current members of the Commonwealth of Nations
(Click here for a larger view)

The era of modern globalization saw the first formal and successful pull for nationalism. Many historians believe this couldn’t have happened without the legacy of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War—the bloodiest and most destructive war on European soil to date. In 1618, the Austrian Habsburgs waged a campaign to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects in Bohemia (part of the Czech Republic today), launching a series of interconnected wars that lasted for 30 years. The wars exploded differences on the European continent in religion, commercial interests, and power politics, putting multiple factions at odds: Protestant vs. Catholic, the Holy Roman Empire vs. France, the German princes vs. the emperor, and France vs. the Habsburgs of Spain. Eventually, the Swedes, Danes, Poles, Russians, Dutch, and Swiss also found themselves engaged in a near totally continent-wide war, primarily fought on and decimating German soil.
 
This peace process, which began in 1644, underscored the chaos of so many disparate, different, and warring mini states. Negotiations included 194 states represented by 179 diplomats and thousands of support staff. The first six months of talks were consumed in arguments over which diplomats would enter the negotiations hall first and where each would sit. Finally, in October 1648, the legions of diplomats signed the Treaty of Westphalia (Westphalia being the area of modern-day Germany where the treaty was signed).
 
Several historians look to this treaty as laying the roots of the modern nation-state and nationalism. The treaty gave the Swiss independence from Austria and the Netherlands independence from Spain. The German principalities were given autonomy. Sweden expanded its territory, and France was given most of Alsace-Lorraine. Importantly, the idea that the Roman Catholic Church could continue its pillage and plunder to conquer additional lands and spread its doctrine came to an end. And the idea that a nation-state could (in theory) exist with defined and impenetrable borders with sovereignty over such decisions as a national religion entered global consciousness. After the Treaty of Westphalia, Europe steadily and increasingly—albeit often through wars and conquests—organized itself around national borders and identities. In time, the United States would firmly cement the nation-state, particularly of its republican sovereignty and democratic government, into the global consciousness. 
 
Modern Globalization: The Trade Story
While British imperialism saw the flow to its zenith and then ebb to its demise in the 19thand 20thcenturies, British trade, and thereby global trade, also underwent several major shifts. The 1800s fully put the concept of free trade in the mix, where free trade is defined by the elimination of any and all barriers to trade. 
 
British economists, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, were history’s most consequential advocates for free trade. They argued that free trade (and therefore free markets) was the linchpin of economic prosperity. Both pointed to moments in history where free trade unlocked far more wealth than did mercantilist, protectionist, isolationist, populist, and communist policies. Where history had seen limited pockets of free trade here and there, the concept only gained meaningful traction in the 1800s as Smith’s and Ricardo’s messages spread. The Ottoman Empire, the United States, and China began engaging in free trade with certain partners. But of course, given that the British Empire continued to dominate the globe, it would take its adoption of free trade to turn the global tide to its favor.
 
defining moment arrived when the Great Britain’s Corn Laws came under debate in 1846. The Corn Laws, enacted in 1815, imposed tariffs and trade restrictions on certain foods and corn imported into Britain. Free traders argued that while these restrictions favored British grain producers, they ultimately artificially raised grain and living costs for all Britons. Free traders won the argument, and Great Britain repealed the protectionist Corn Laws in 1846, setting the empire, and the world, on a dramatically different trade course. 
 
In repealing the Corn Laws, Britain was the first economy to adopt unilateral free trade, meaning at its own discretion it eliminated tariffs and applied limited customs duties only for the purposes of generating revenue to run government. The move benefited its willing trading partners, as well, giving favor to the free markets. This triggered the demise of the proto globalization practice of giving privileged access to an empire’s colonies. 
 
Britain would quickly learn the limits of true and unilateral free trade: it only works when all other partners are also practicing true free trade. Britain made its early unilateral free trade decisions under the expectation that all partners would follow suit. While some did to a degree, most did not. Even within Britain there were those dubious of the government’s intentions, saying free trade rhetoric was merely a tool to serve Britain’s, not the people’s, interest. 
 
To most European monarchs seeking to maintain control over their royal subjects, free trade was seen as too great a political risk. Yet they would be able to resist the populist pull for liberty and personal prosperity—inspired by their new neighbor across the Atlantic—for only so long. Europe would endure the Revolutions of 1848, a series of republican revolts against monarchies in Sicily, France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire (with smaller uprisings across most other European monarchies). The revolutions were largely spurred by disgruntled working classes seeking to remove the yoke of monarchical rule in favor of the formation of independent, democratic nation-states with greater personal and economic freedoms, including the capacity to engage in and benefit from free trade. The revolutions gave way to little change in most monarchies. 
 
Meanwhile, Britain continued to steadily and unilaterally dismantle impediments to free trade, in large part motivated by the government’s desire to do away with the frustrating and seemingly never-ending trade negotiations processes with partners. (When considering how Brexit negotiations are going today, it’s easy to see the appeal of wholly unilateral trade.) But Britain would find itself back in trade talks in 1860, when the threat of war between Britain and France pushed Napoleon to view free trade with Britain as the only defusing mechanism.
 
Great Britain and France hashed out a bilateral trade agreement, and the floodgates opened. Britain made a series of bilateral trade agreements with European powers in the ensuing years, giving way to what is referred to as “the first common market.” Bilateral trade, as it turned out, brought Great Britain much closer to the original intent of unilateral trade; that is, a trade structure where they were the leaders of global free trade. Prosperity across Britain saw a significant growth.
 
The bilateral, and eventually multilateral, trade agreement had officially arrived on the global stage, opening the doors to a new era of global trade cooperation. Trade also took on new meaning—a means of deflecting war and improving international relations.
 
Modern Globalization: The Global Cooperation Story
While European powers were busy engaging in multilateral free trade across the continent, the story remained different in the United States. While ultimately the U.S. would lead the globalization story of the 20thcentury, this would not happen until it fully entered the global stage in WWII. Up to that point in American history, while the country did engage in some free trade agreements, the de facto policy was isolationism and protectionism. 
 
Protectionism was particularly pronounced with the passage of the Tariff of 1816, the first tariff passed by Congress (powers designated in Article I, Section 8 of Constitution as exclusive to Congress). Prior to this new law, all trade tariffs were applied only to generate revenue to run government. With the Tariff of 1816, the U.S. passed its first trade tariff designed to protect American manufacturers. The decision came after the War of 1812 against Britain and the looming prospect of yet another war with them over economic and territorial concerns. Congress deemed it necessary to impose a tariff on manufactured goods, including war industry products, in the interests of national defense.
 
In 1913, Congress passed the 16thAmendment, which allowed Congress to levy a federal income tax. By definition, this rendered the trade tariff less critical in generating government revenue. No less, the U.S. continued its isolationist and protectionist policy. The tenure of protectionism would notoriously come to an end with the devastating Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Congress passed the act with the hope that it would protect domestic farmers and manufacturers as they tried to survive the newly-onset Great Depression. As a consequence of the act’s historically high tariffs, more than 60 American trading partners confronted prohibitive barriers to trade. In hindsight, Smoot-Hawley is often credited with dramatically exacerbating and further entrenching the Great Depression, in the United States and beyond.
 
While the U.S. dabbled in imperialism between 1898 and 1904 under President Teddy Roosevelt, and it participated with great reluctance in WWI, the country did not officially emerge from its protectionist and isolationist tendencies until WWII under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, Congress passed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which gave the president the authority to levy or change tariffs and engage in bilateral trade agreements with nations without first receiving congressional approval. As a result, the bilateral trade agreement jumped from dominating European trade to dominating global trade. 
 
Global free trade saw another advancement at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire, where 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations convened to determine a plan to regulate and manage international monetary and financial order in the wake of WWII. The impetus was the fact that Germany could not pay reparations in the aftermath of WWI, a contributing factor to WWII. The conference produced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the preamble of which called for: “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis.” The conference also resulted in the formation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose mission was and remains to engage nations in monetary cooperation, stabilize currency exchange rates, and expand access to international liquidity (i.e. hard currencies). Lastly, the conference lead to the creation of the World Bank, which was established to finance international projects and support economic development of member nations.
 
While the League of Nations—an international diplomatic organization built in the fallout of WWI with the intention of improving international ties and avoiding war—had failed, FDR believed that such a model could be tweaked and improved to prevent another world war. In 1945, the three Allied partners of the U.S., England, and the U.S.S.R. agreed to form the United Nations, which is charged with debating and establishing international law, leading international conflict resolution, organizing international disaster relief, promoting global human rights, and recognizing any new nations. Since its inception, the UN has grown from 51 original members to 193 today.
 
Just one year later, relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. devolved into the Cold War, which would last until 1991. In the intervening decades, the Cold War essentially divided the globe into a bi-polar system, where some nations lined up behind the U.S. and others behind the U.S.S.R. The Cold War era would show American trade policy totally reshaped from a pattern of high tariffs and high barriers to one of low tariffs and low barriers to trade. With its allies, the U.S. promoted free trade and free exchange of cultural ideas as a means both of providing and showcasing an alternative to communism and to keep its allies within its sphere of influence. Free trade, then, was viewed not only as a means of economic prosperity but also a means to entice nations to favor a certain economic and political world view, an American policy that persists today.  
 
Average U.S. tariff rates, 1821 – 2016
(Click here for a larger view)
 

France, United Kingdom, and the United States: 
Average tariff rates on total imports, 1830 – 2010
(Click here for a larger view)

GATT would go on to spur a series of multilateral trade talks for five decades, all of which served to greatly liberalize global free trade. As global trade became more entrenched, there were calls in the 1980s for a means of providing expanded oversight over trade and trade disputes. At the Uruguay Round of GATT multilateral trade talks (1986 – 1994), 117 nations agreed to the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which would replace GATT, the then de facto global trade organization. 
 
The WTO is charged with six key objectives:
  1. set, monitor, and enforce international trade rules (where GATT’s reach from only pertinent to goods trade was expanded to include goods, services, intellectual property, and some investment policies);
  2. provide a forum for negotiating and advancing trade liberalization;
  3. resolve trade disputes;
  4. ensure transparency in the decision-making processes;
  5. cooperate with other international economic organizations involved in global economic management (namely the IMF and World Bank); and 
  6. protect the interests of small, weak, and/or developing countries against discriminatory trade practices of larger powers, such that they, too, can benefit fully from the global trading system. 
 
Today, 164 countries (of the world’s 194 recognized countries) are members of the WTO. The combined share of WTO members’ trade exceeds 90% of all global trade.
 
Current global WTO membership
(Click here for a larger view)
The WTO outlines rules that set behavioral expectations of all members. Members are expected to grant equal access to trade. Domestic and foreign suppliers are to be treated equally. Members are expected to limit trade only through tariffs and no other measures. And members are expected not to succumb to lobbying from domestic manufactures for preferential trade access or favors. The theory behind these rules is that they could bring greater predictability and order to the global economy, which would in turn enhance global economic welfare and reduce political tensions.
 
Naturally, many member states take issue with an international body imposing rules on independent nations. Upon its inception, the WTO was in fact—and remains—a target of criticism from all sides. To those more nationalistic in their beliefs, the WTO is a direct threat to sovereignty, subjecting independent nations to an arbitrary global regulation. To those who take a more globalist stance, it doesn’t move fast enough or go far enough to integrate economies. As an example, critics of the WTO’s role in monitoring the 1991 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) say that the WTO did not do enough to advocate for inclusion of additional neighboring states to the treaty’s partners—Mexico, the U.S., and Canada—for political, military, and/or economic reasons. Similar criticism holds about the European Union and the Asia-Pacific Economic Union. What is the WTO’s role in expanding access to such multilateral trade organizations? It’s a constant question with no clear answer.
 
The WTO is not the only global body under debate. Today, the World Bank, IMF, and WTO manage the global economy. Together, these organizations oversee global economic and trade policy, reform public institutions in developing countries, and set the global economic agenda. Each of these organizations is under perpetual examination. At this point, it is only accurate to say that each, to a degree, undermine sovereignty of member states. The question, then, is whether or not some degree of international governing at the expense of some degree of national sovereignty is necessary in today’s world that runs on international trade.
 
GLOBALIZATION VS. NATIONALISM: UNCOMFORTABLE REALITIES

We could devote an entire TLV Deep Dive to the pros and cons of globalization. (For a thoughtful conversation to this end, watch this Intelligence Squared debate.) As an obvious pro, it has served to bridge a wealth divide and create and expand a global middle class, thereby bringing prosperity to large swaths of populations that likely would have remained impoverished before the era of modern globalization. As an obvious con, it has also begun to undermine the economic leverage (and dignity) of the very middle class it helped create, with technologies acting as a tipping point in a return to an ever-growing global wealth divide. 
 
Therein lies the complexity of the globalization debate. Globalization is neither strictly good nor strictly bad. It has both created prosperity and undermined it. It has both united peoples and divided them. This is no black and white debate.
 
What might be black and white is that globalization is here to stay. In fact, it was always here. When viewed in the context of its long history, globalization is far more certain than is the nation. While the arguments for a pull towards nationalism may very well have their merit, we have to acknowledge that nationalism has not been the natural way of human history. It simply could not be, since homo sapiens began the long march towards globalization tens of thousands of years ago, when we first learned to cooperate and exchange goods, and the nation-state as we know it today is no more than 400 years old. 
 
An uncomfortable reality is that a stronger argument can be made that globalization is a reality, where nationalism is a construct. Nationalism is, after all, a totally human invention. The globe, with its seven continents and 7.5 billion disparate people, is a reality. The 194 nations (and the national identities that come with them) that sit on these seven continents are an imagined concoction, a story. Yet this story is powerful and has often functioned as a conduit to more and more peace and prosperity for more and more people. The story is also personal; nationality is inextricably tied to identity and often a source of pride, making conversations around it charged and emotional. Most of us feel more connected to our nations than to a vast and abstract globe.
 
Another uncomfortable reality is that capitalism and nationalism are signaling they might be at fundamental odds with each other. As capitalism expands its global reach through free trade, multinational corporations expand their power to a point where they can operate at odds with national sovereignty. The WTO’s relationship to multinational corporations has come under debate from both sides of the ideological spectrum. More conservative minded people criticize the WTO for contributing to the erosion of nationalism by supporting the capacity of multinational corporations to engage in free global trade. On the more liberal side, critics say that in supporting multinational corporations, the WTO promotes outsourcing at the expense and wellbeing of workers native to the origin country of a multinational corporation, particularly in developed economies.
 
This tension between capitalism and nationalism is only accentuated with internet-based multinational corporations, such as Google and Facebook, because trade of internet services inherently has fewer barriers, making their scale and influence rapid and broad. As we are seeing today, some of these multinational internet companies are wielding more global political power than native governments. They are also uniquely vulnerable to nefarious forces—a fact the U.S. confronted during Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Who is responsible for managing internet trade serviced by multinational corporations when their leadership spans nations? Their influence requires no middlemen, their products are not neatly transported on planes or in shipping containers, and they can come under unprecedented threat from any number of outside forces.
 
WHO OWNS THE FUTURE OF GLOBALIZATION?

To understand where globalization might be going, we have to ask a question. Why did Europe, the British Empire in particular, and the Western World drive the era of modern globalization? Yuval Noah Harari seeks to answer this question in his revelatory book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
 
In large part, Harari argues, Europe was able to push the bounds of globalization to an unmatched expanse because of timing. European powers, especially Great Britain, began conquering and colonizing around the time of dramatic technological evolutions in seafaring/shipping and scientific development, giving their expansionist efforts an advantage that others before them lacked. Advancements in seafaring meant that Europeans proximal to the Atlantic Ocean could finally begin setting sail across it—and often survive it.
 
Importantly, the Scientific Revolution was a culmination of all prior global trade to date; while it took place primarily on the European Continent, it was by no means the result of only Europeans. European brains were no more or less competent than all other human brains across the world. Up to the point of the Scientific Revolution, geography had often disadvantaged the Europeans; their colonial moment, arguably, would only come once technology made seafaring across oceans possible. 
 
(Geography also explains why when Europeans reached the Americas, they found cultures of far less technological advancement than those in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The homo sapiens of the Americas had been isolated for their entire existence, unable to benefit from the exchange of goods and ideas that drove technological advancement on other continents.)
 
A second and significant factor, which was a byproduct of technological advancement, made for a key distinction of European colonization. In the past, most imperial expansion efforts existed to spread beliefs among the people an empire encountered and, usually, to subjugate them. The European imperialism of proto and modern globalization was different in that powers also sought to learn from the people they encountered (and also usually subjugated).
 
Why, though, did European imperialists want to both spread their messages to and learn from new peoples? When Europeans arrived in the New World, they were confronted with the reality of how little they knew, even though it took some time for them to see that. Columbus went to his grave certain that the Americas he discovered were the Indies, or today the Indonesian archipelago. After all, biblical maps put no lands between Europe and East Asia. The Bible and Columbus’ religious beliefs had him convinced he knew the entire map of the globe. This was the attitude of nearly all prior imperial conquests: we know best and most and therefore must conquer so everyone knows what we know. Consider the Crusades. This was not the Roman Empire looking to learn from the people they set out to overpower. They were not looking to engage in dialogue with Protestants, in particular, or believers in any other religions. They were looking to force upon everyone their certitude that the Roman Catholic Church held all the answers. Of note, the Roman Empire wasn’t in the business of discovering new lands; they were in the business of converting those in known lands. 
 
While this “we know all” attitude existed in the early days of proto globalization, it would not survive it. It could not survive it. Time would undermine it by causing more explorers to wonder if these “Indies” that Columbus discovered were in fact something else entirely. It wasn’t until 1499 that Amerigo Vespucci, who had made several journeys to the Americas on behalf of Italy, became convinced he was not in the Indonesian archipelago. He was the first to write an argument that this new world was in fact the New World, not East Asia. The mapmaker who drew this new conception of the globe believed Amerigo discovered this continent, naming it “America” in his honor. 
 
This admission of a New World opened imperial Europeans to how little they knew. It also lead to the understanding that if they were to conquer these new lands—as they were want to do—they needed to learn about them and fast. Their climate, terrain, culture, languages, flora, fauna—they had to understand so that they could control. Thus, the imperial mindset and the scientific mindset were fused for the first time in history. 
 
Just as Europeans were no more or less competent than any other humans on earth, they were also no more or less curious. The thinking is that, at least in terms of globalization, before the discovery of the Americas, curiosity about the world map hadn’t been meaningfully challenged in hundreds of years. This shift from the belief that an empire is the end all be all of knowledge to the idea that the empire has much to learn was pivotal to unlocking imaginations and the desire to discover and create—a curiosity revival that collided with the Scientific Revolution. Naturally, the capacity to discover and create would fall to those with the most capital and influence at the time—first the European powers in proto globalization, then Great Britain, followed by the U.S. in modern globalization.
 
If invention is tied to capital and influence, then the Western World today no longer has a monopoly on invention. Ironically, it was the Western World that drove the global developments that allowed people from all corners of the world to gain the capital—through their own economic activities and organizations designed to grow access to it—to also discover and invent. 
 
Where inventing the future was once the predominant domain of the Middle East, and then Asia, and then the Western World, it is now the domain of the whole world.
 
This is particularly true when internet technologies all but eliminate barriers to entry for many kinds of business and transactions, as well as access to internationally-sourced capital (e.g. individuals can give to or directly invest in businesses born in other countries through various fundraising platforms) and new kinds of capital, such as bitcoin. Internet technologies also give unforeseen access to individuals in one nation to exchange goods, ideas, and stories with individuals in other nations, no travel necessary.
 
FINDING OUR WAY IN A NEW ERA OF GLOBALIZATION

Many believe that we are entering a new era of globalization, one that started with the invention of the internet. If this shapes up to be accurate—and only historical hindsight will say for sure—then the unrest and unpredictability that so many in the world feel today are the growing pains out of modern globalization and into whatever the next era of globalization becomes. We are living in the discomfort of slowly confronting and eventually admitting that the systems that carried us through modern globalization may prove incapable of carrying us through this next era.
 
This is the belief held by Harari, Sapiens’ author. At the heart of this is that our problems are new and global, not national, with no existing structures of systems to implement new solutions. Of the many issues internet technologies create, one is that they exacerbate the wealth divide. A company in the U.S. can hire workers in India and pay them far less than they would have to pay American workers because of vast cost of living differences in both nations. In simplest terms, this benefits shareholders/owners of the American company and harms their would-be American workers now struggling to find work. Or a company can entirely replace humans with robotic, information management, or AI technologies. In both cases, the market pay rate for jobs lost in the U.S. to outsourcing or technologies drops. Displaced workers’ wages drop against static or, often, rising costs of living. 
 
Some are suggesting a universal basic income as a possible solution to this problem. But, Harari points out, this cannot work under our current global-national structure, where, for example, the U.S. government would set a universal basic income rate for Americans. Other countries opting for such an income would also set their own. In each case, the rate would be a function of national socio-economics and politics. And a world with a wealth divide, driven by how differently jobs are valued in different counties, would remain totally intact. The only way a universal basic income could work is if it truly were universal—uniform across every country so that true global wage parity could be achieved. But who would decide the rate of a true universal basic income? Today, we have no such structure to do that, nor do we have an appetite for one. All internet and AI technologies belong to no one nation, making this a global problem.
 
With problems so new and so global, Harari believes that the debate between nationalism vs. globalization—and the sub-debates it’s spurred, i.e. capitalism vs. socialism—miss the point. The point is that these debates focus on old ideas. Our new problems will demand new solutions. While Harari readily admits he doesn’t have the answers, he also admits he struggles to see how our current versions of globalization, nationalism, capitalism, or socialism (and certainly communism) are sufficient to manage the challenges of a world that is—whether it likes it or not—now organized around borderless internet and AI technologies. 
 
Where nationalism and capitalism were once new ideas and solutions for new problems, Harari believes that the answers to today’s problems might exist only in a few minds, yet to be shared and debated on the global stage.
 
For a fascinating look into how Harari sees global and national order today and where it might go, check out his TED Dialogues series.
 

WHAT NOW?

While the details change, history does tend to repeat itself. The forces of globalization have invented new problems yet again. And they very well might need new solutions. This can be a scary concept, no matter where one falls on the debate of globalization vs. nationalism. But keep in mind that there was a time where nationalism and capitalism were terrifying and threatening prospects to many. Several wars have been fought over these ideas. Yet, most reasonable people would admit that the nation-state—and, importantly, efforts to ensure their productive cooperation with other nation-states—and capitalism have done more good than not on the global level. Even reasonable people who are decrying the limitations of globalism and/or capitalism can admit the good both have done. 
 
The world has never been as rich as it is now. More people than ever before live above poverty level. More people than ever have access to clean drinking water. More people than ever before have access to modern healthcare and vaccinations that protect against life-shortening, avoidable diseases. And contrary to popular perception, there is far more peace compared to most of human history, and there is far more peace than not. This reality is a direct result of both nation-derived capitalism and global coordination and cooperation.
 
Maybe our current order of globalization and nationalism will find a way to carry us through this next era. But maybe it won’t. And if that proves true, can we come up with some new or evolved system or structure of international/global cooperation and economy that also does more good than not and meets today’s new challenges head on? 
 
We leave you with a closing thought, inspired by the recently released “Apollo 11” documentary (an edge-of-your-seat must see).
 
It’s easy to survey the history of humankind and see a history of pillaging, plundering, conquering, warring, and destroying. We can also survey the history of humankind and see a marvel of human imagination, invention, creation, and evolution. No modern achievement captures this more viscerally than the Apollo 11 moon landing.
 
There was a time when Ferdinand Magellan’s plan to sail the globe was ludicrous. The mere suggestion that humans could and should land on the moon was also once absurd on its face. It defies logic, reason, and sense. Yet someone had the boldness to dream it up. And scores of collaborating and cooperating humans had the wherewithal and drive to make it happen—which entailed the conception and fabrication of far-fetched interlocking and detachable machinery to rocket three truly brave men into space and get them safely home.
 
Landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, with the all too unsung Michael Collins who played the pivotal role in their safe return, was the culmination of all scientific and technological discovery to date, which was a function of tens of thousands of years of a global exchange of ideas and goods. It was the product of a determined nation that benefited from all human history before it. And it achieved something that would also go on to benefit all other nations after it.
 
Humans can literally do anything we put our minds to. Throughout history, we’ve encountered setbacks and strife. But we’ve always found a way to persevere and survive, sometimes with brute force, other times with grace and cooperation. We can create problems. We can stand in the way of their solutions. Or we can invent them—and keep the march of humankind persisting on its wild, fascinating course with more peace and prosperity than not. 
 
FOR FURTHER READING AND VIEWING
 
The pros and cons of globalization
 
World Economic Forum: Globalization 4.0 – what does it mean?
 
TED Talk: How nationalism and globalism can coexist
 
Why nationalism works—and why it isn’t going away
 
Intelligence Squared: Has globalization undermined America's working class?
 
Megacities, not nations, are the world’s dominant, enduring social structures
 
The Canada experiment: is this the world's first 'postnational' country?
 
TED Talk: What explains the rise of humans (Yuval Noah Harari)
 
 

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