The Washington Protests

CAMBRIDGE: We are entering the third round of street protests against globalization. The City of London and Seattle were the first to be besieged. Now demonstrators are massing in Washington against the IMF and World Bank. Thousands will protest for human rights issues, women rights issues, gay rights issues, workers rights issues, ecological rights issues, anti-war issues, Tibetan rights, and a myriad of other concerns. A brief look at the demonstrators' website gives a full taste of the menu of gripes on offer, including even an anarchists' domain.

What is extraordinary here are not the protests per se, but the sheer ability to gather and mobilize so many diverse groups into one giant anti-everything-that-is-wrong-in-the-world howl. But should we take these screams seriously? Is there a message? Are these protests representative of a widespread rejection of the way the world economy is working? Or does all this sound and fury signify nothing more than a well-organized mobilization of the dispossessed who cannot win support via the democratic process?

The demonstrations in Washington are certain to gain worldwide attention as the best show in town. But we should not be dissuaded from a sound economic approach to managing the world economy. The most important reason for ignoring these shouts is that, behind the scenes but not really hidden, the chief force organizing the demonstrations is America's organized labor, a movement with terrible problems with free trade (Nafta, trade with China, the WTO), anything, indeed, that looks like a global free market.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now