Las dos caras de la globalización

¿Por qué chocan las percepciones popular y de las elites acerca de la globalización? La gente del mundo desarrollado piensa que la globalización se parece a una implacable fuerza maligna que les arrebata los trabajos bien pagados y se los lleva a lugares remotos; la gente de los países en desarrollo piensa que gatilla una conducta consumista obsesionada consigo misma, al ritmo de una privatización corrupta y la destrucción del medio ambiente. Las elites descalifican a sus oponentes como populistas sin ideas y, a su vez, se las acusa de estar alejadas de las preocupaciones de la gente común y corriente.

La globalización siempre se ha parecido al dios Jano bifronte, mostrando a algunos la cara de un progreso y riqueza ilimitados, mientras que otros ven a un gigante sin alma que juega con sus vidas. Consideremos la anterior ola de la globalización: el periodo entre mediados del siglo XIX y el estallido de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Los costos del transporte cayeron a pique con el surgimiento del barco a vapor y el ferrocarril. Las nuevas telecomunicaciones permitieron que la información llegara instantáneamente a todo el mundo. El capital fluyó a sitios remotos como Argentina, Rusia, Malasia y Sudáfrica. Un habitante de Londres, como Keynes lo hizo notar, podía enviar a su sirviente a obtener cualquier monto de una moneda extranjera e invertir sus libras en donde lo deseara.

Pero estos también eran los días del auge del imperialismo, el colonialismo, la conquista violenta y la esclavitud. Se cree que tan sólo bajo el malgobierno del Rey Leopoldo en el Congo murieron varios millones de personas, en lo que fue quizás el peor crimen imperial, pero de ninguna manera el único. El tráfico de esclavos continuó hasta la década de 1850 en la mayor parte del mundo y en algunos lugares hasta fines del siglo XIX.

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