Bretton Woods vs. Protest – Which is More Effective in the Fight Against Global Injustice?
The highlight of the anti-globalization movements came in 1999, when protesters lined the streets of Seattle, the location of a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A theme had been building, and it seemed to come to a head at Seattle: wherever the WTO, International Monetary Fund (IMF), or World Bank met, protesters would follow. However, things were not all peaceful, loving, and in the best interest of humanity. Things soon turned ugly, as the streets became filled with smashed windows, overturned dumpsters, and violence in general. Granted, it very well could have been an out-of-control few who ruined the reputation of all, or, for the conspiracy theorists, it could have been corporate plants stuck in the crowd to stir up trouble. Nevertheless, the message from the protesters had gotten across to the general public, but it wasn’t the message they wanted to portray. The side that the public saw was the lawless one. Perhaps the whole format they use - sticking their head out for a few days (with trouble happening during that short while) and then fading back into cyber space – inevitably leads to a bad reputation (Meadows Internet). The fact of the matter is that an assembly of such a wide variety of outspoken opinions, often times conflicting, is expected to cause trouble. This makes it extremely difficult for protesters to separate themselves from the label of being a group of ‘irresponsible terrorists’ (Internet). With this setup in place, the protesters to date have failed to have a significant influence.
Despite their lack of success to date, the question as to whether or not they have the potential to change things in the future is not answered as easily. Perhaps the best way to evaluate the possible success is to look at why they protest, and see if there is any legitimacy to their cause. Their reasons can be put into two categories. First, a small number of people protest because they believe that globalization is bad, for it undermines a nation’s sovereignty. Second, a large majority of the protesters feel that globalization is promising, but that potential has been squandered away by neo-liberal practices. If protesters can ever establish a more coherent and definite way of expressing themselves, perhaps they will be more successful.
Granted, there is a chance that things will not change towards civil society in the future. The first reason is that many people see much validity and strength in the current economic rule. Expressed in Russell Roberts’ book The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism, there is much reason to believe that neo-liberal free trade policies are the ticket to a wealthy and prosperous world. Roberts goes into detail about the principles behind David Ricardo’s infamous Theory of Comparative Advantage, the backbone for today’s world economy (9-11). It poses...