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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Open World: The Truth about Globalisation
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 August 2013
I recommend this book as a persuasive and accessible introduction to the pro -globalisation line of argument,ideal for the general reader or student who is starting out to study development economics.Globalisation is a process of greater economic, cultural, social and technological relatedness that has its basis in trade.It is not a modern phenomenon. For as long as production,communication,travel and exchange has been possible, then it has existed.But like the genie once let out of the bottle, its effects are hard to control or anticipate, especially in the case of financial markets.Globalisation is a fact and can't be uninvented. More importantly, the spread of ideas, effects on politics, good practise and the free -flow of capital and other resources implicit in the process has had profound impacts on all ot us.

Legrain's view of course, is that globalisation is a 'good' thing, not just for some, but rich and poor countries alike. Further, if only governments reduced tariff barriers and other spurious self-serving restrictions, incomes, output, choice and opportunity would improve globally.This is because each country, and by extension their citizens,would be forced to specialise in particular products or services wherein they had a comparative advantage. This would lead to more efficient use of resources,higher employment and lower taxes.

Legrain however is not some libertarian extremist, he is a pragmatist.He understands that there will be transition costs in the form of unemployment,elimination of inefficient industries and firms and resultant social upheaval.Works work, but they take time.Reassuringly,he adds that markets need regulating (but on an international, not unilateral level)and preventative mechanisms such as bail out funds and methods of restricting capital outflows when particular currencies come under speculative pressure to smooth over market uncertainty and instability.

The argument then is that protectionism serves special interest groups, especially declining industries, inefficient producers , such as European small farmers or intellectual property right holders such as big pharmaceutical companies. Protectionism has a two fold impact. It costs citizens in say Europe and America higher taxes to pay for subsidies, higher prices by virtue of import duties and less choice. Jobs might be protected, at last in the short run, but at what cost. Producers in the developing world find themselves locked out of world markets. They suffer from lower prices and demand and an inability to move beyond being suppliers of primary products. The net result is continuing poverty,lack of funds for education and health care and a dependence on aid. So opening up markets ( with certain proviso's)generates significant long term and sustained welfare gains. Legrain's view is that whilst Globalisation has many failings (sweatshop labour,financial panics , pollution and resource depletion) the benefits far outweigh the costs. But if consumers really feel that some products,services or governments are morally compromised, then they should vote with their feet. Falling incomes or wealth tends to adjust behaviour!

Legrain has the habit of many economists of ignoring the political realities.Protectionism appeals to nationalism and a romantic attachment to particular productive activities, not to mention powerful sectional interests. Why else does the CAP exist? Protection exists because it is a convenient way of satisfying powerful interest groups( unions and producers), raises revenues for government and imposes costs on consumers who don't realize what they are being forced to pay and so can't object. Secondly he is very dismissive of the critics of globalisation.To be concerned about the welfare of workers in developing countries is not naivety or sentimentality, but a real moral issue that should be given proper consideration.
Thirdly, he fails to acknowledge the real transition costs of lowering protectionist barriers. Free markets do not guarantee labour mobility or higher incomes. There will be winners and losers.Can and should the losers from reduced protectionism, be compensated by the winners?

'Open World' is an interesting and informative read. It is packed with useful examples and case studies. It's points are clearly made and easy to understand.What I liked about the book was its essentially optimistic tone. Increased trade and more open markets deliver benefits for everyone. Trade reduces dependence, increases freedom and makes for a better world. Whats not to like?
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on 21 July 2015
Philippe Legrain creates a new insight through an economists eyes, concerning the poor, the environment and the democracy of globalisation. He tackles the issues face on, investigating arguments in favour of globalisation from a variety of perspectives.

Legrain emphasises how free trade is benefiting the LEDC’s (less economically developed countries) and that by controlling globalisation it would lead to more a more effective approach in the use of resources, reduce unemployment rates and lower taxes. He focuses on companies such as Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse, McDonalds etc and examines their failings by creating sweat shops etc. The book contains many case studies and examples but the political instabilities are sometimes forgotten about- something many economists often avoid.
Legrain’s book explains how globalisation has economic, cultural, social and technological impacts. Legrain does not go in to profound analysis of the political and economic situations, but tells us how we can make the good out of globalisation as long as we believe that we can control markets and corporations and allow it to enrich us socially and economically. Legrain’s final paragraph, ‘Choose hope’, summarises that globalisation can ‘shape our destiny’ and that all of the opportunities are ‘more apparent, its threats less menacing’ to full fill his, what I see to be, main point that globalisation can be used as a cheat and tool to improving the world.
Being a Geographer and a Business student, I often get diverse opinions in both subjects about Globalisation. Legrain’s book has really encouraged me to look at the negatives and positives in a balanced manner, especially his final sentence -‘the future of the wold is in our hands. We are free to make the best of it- or to waste it’. This rhetoric device shows us that globalisation and the impacts it is having is in our hands, we are in control of the economic situation it puts us in. It also proves that there are positives in globalisation, for example Legrain mentions how minimum wage has increased in the US from $3.35 to $5.15 and there is a lower unemployment rate. The book is an overall interesting and eye opening read which gives a great understanding of economics to new students to the subject.
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on 29 October 2002
It is very easy to be cynical and go along with the doom-mongers who say that globalisation only has negative consequences. Mr Legrain makes a compelling case that the reality is much more complicated. Insyead of falling into the usual media hype - inspired by protest groups and authors like Naomi Klein - that globalisation is de facto a bad thing Philippe presents a more insightful and deeper analysis which suggests the argument is not nearly so clear cut. Read this book to have your prejudices challenged.
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on 13 March 2003
Firstly, Philippe Legrain is to be applauded for taking on the challenge posited by countless texts from Klein, Hertz et al and trying to redress the balance of thought in this area. Not least since this is likely to raise a few hackles. However, in trying to tackle a full sweep of the issues raised by globalisation (economic, political, social and cultural) he produces a very basic and weak analysis of the subject.
Whilst he raises interesting issues (e.g. the real extent of US cultural impact globally), on a macro level, the book contains none of the thoughtfulness or insightfulness of analyses by commentators such as Hutton, Chomsky or Friedman and reads rather like a university thesis, rooted in traditional theories of economics rather than realpolitik. Surprisingly, for example, in this sort of book, there is no real discussion of US economic and political hegemony which is pretty remiss to say the least.
On a micro level, there is a plethora of texts on each each of subjects he raises ranging from the popular (Eric Schlosser, Fran Abrams) to the academic (e.g. on global standards for human rights) which provide much more thorough, detailed and on-the-ground analysis and which often contradict Legrain's theories. There are many, many examples of this through the book, but to pick one at random, in his review of whether major corporations are in a position to take unfair advantage of their size (whether financial, environmentally or vis-a-vis consumers and employees) one of his four mitigating items is that these companies have to comply with many government regulations and therefore are prevented from doing so. To support this, he notes that "the Federal Register, which lists US government regulations is 70,000 pages long"... and that's it for your analysis. No consideration as to the extent of compliance, what constitutes compliance, whether companies can successfully breach regulations etc. This is a crucial failing of book given that if the majority of theories and principles are not necessarily applied or adhered to properly in practice, then his analysis of the actual impact of globalisation is seriously flawed.
In short, buy this book if you want a quick snapshot of alternative thinking to traditional globalisation but do not buy it for any thoughtful analysis of the subject.
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on 3 February 2008
If you have been convinced by the arguments of Naomi Klein that corporations are taking over the world and that we are in an inexorable race to the bottom driven by corporate greed then you need to read Philippe Legaine's Open World. The book is largely written in response to Naomi Klein's No Logo. Each of the books 12 chapters address specific issues raised by Miss Klein, from loss of control over governments to branding.

Mr Legraine, born in the UK, the son of a French father and an Estonian-American mother is really a product of globalisation as we know it. He argues eloquently and convicingly that free trade is good for poor countries. It is the best means of lifting people out of poverty. He backs up his argument with tons of statistical evidence from the World Bank and the IMF. Furthermore, Mr Legraine argues that globalisation is not an inevitable process. It is driven by politics. Therefore, there is a chance that the pace of globalisation can be slowed down. His example is that the losers from the previous phase of globalisation triggered a backlash against it resulting in the First World War and the Great Depression.

He tackles many issues head on. From rich world agricultural subsidies, patent protection, the role of NGO's, corporate power over govenments and environmental regulation to the Americanisation of popular culture. He rightly points out that fear of losing "native" cultures are overblown. Wearing Levi's jeans and drinking Coca-Cola does not imperialism make. Afterall, Muslim fundamentalists carry out their deadly trade while carrying Nike bags. However, he reserves his most excoriating remarks for the likes of Jose Bove, who style themselves as fighting for the "poor". Mr Legraine shows that Jose Bove and his ilk are misguided populists who have no desire to help the poor. How true! The book shows conclusively that there is no "race to the bottom" a la Klein. There is no evidence that polluting industries in the First World are moving to the Third World to escape stricter environmental regulation.

The book throws a lot of numbers in your face. It would have been better if Mr Legraine used graphical charts to display the statistics in the first few chapters. This would have helped the tone of the book. In order to make his point on globalisation the author states that no one knew that the earth was round before c 1400. That is stretching the truth. The ancient Greeks calculated the circumference of the earth c 330 BC. Surely, you don't calculate the circumference of a flat object. Even though Columbus "discovered" the New World he did not confirm that the earth was round(ish).

If you are a well-intentioned person, who thinks about poverty, the environment and global issues then this book is a good start. It is a welcome reminder that the benefits of free trade overwhelmingly outweigh its risks. There is nothing noble about Third World poverty. It is inhuman to say the least. Free trade is the best way to lift people out of poverty. It is a message that resonates through out the book and one that cannot be repeated often enough to Rich World electorates, who have been swayed by Naomi Klein and Noreena Hertz. I highly recommend Open World.
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on 6 June 2003
The thing is, I probably agree with what he's trying to say...
I'm not quite sure what audience the author is aiming at, but his writing style is relentlessly populist and gets in the way of what he's saying. The topic is broadsheet in nature but this book treats it in a tabloid manner. There's only so many pages of the Mail or the Sun that I'm prepared to read. And it's not just the language: it's the way he deals with the arguments of the anti-globalisers, with a total lack of respect. The way he sets out the opposition arguments only to knock them down leads you to suspect that he's misstating the arguments in the first place.
I bought this on the basis of the positive review in the FT. Must be good, I thought. I was hoping for an intelligent analysis of the anti-globaliser's case and a reasoned counter-argument, or even demolition. What I found was a torrent of abuse.
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on 8 March 2004
For anyone who is looking for a quick and accessible insight into the
minefield that is globalisation, this is the book for you. Legrain explains
clearly and convincingly why globalisation is generally a good thing. But he
is not starry-eyed about it: he thinks it can be improved in all sorts of
ways. Open World is a refreshing change from the simplistic globalisation is
good/bad conventional wisdom. Buy it.
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on 11 September 2003
I'll ignore the irony of anti-globalisation campaigners using the internet - the ultimate globaliser - to attack this excellent book, and get to the heart of the matter: what does globalisation mean to us, the ordinary people of the world.
Legrain's answer is clear - in general, it is a good thing. Sure, globalisation creates pain, but it is a myth, as is clearly demonstrated by this book, to think that that pain is only for the developing world. In any case, the gains clearly outweigh the losses.
As Legrain makes clear globalisation is the only sure way to ensure that the wealth of the west/north is made the universal human condition. Rich westerners may want to keep the developing world stuck in subsistence economies, but the people of the south want something else.
The book pulls no punches and its style is trenchant. It's an easy read and the argument is set out in a clear and cogent style. Even if you disagree it is worth buying, because you won't find the case put better.
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on 11 August 2003
Open World offers a persuasive case for globalisation and a clear and brutal dissection of the arguments put forward by the anti-globalisation movement. Philippe Legrain explains how globalisation can and does benefits all parts of society across the world and explodes the myth of the global economy as a club for the rich to exploit the poor. I warmly recommend this book to anyone who has been bemused by an often highly emotive debate. Legrain cuts through the nonsense to show how freer trade benefits us all. Future generations will see the anti-globalisation movement in the same way that we regard those who, in the past, firmly believed the world was flat. Legrain is no Aristotle, but, like Christopher Columbus, he takes his readers on a journey which proves the doom-sayers wrong.
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on 2 April 2005
A useful book, full of facts about the benefits of globally integrated trade, but written in the brusque, no-nonsense style that economists like to affect. For someone as young as Philippe Legrain, this can come across as arrogant rather than authoritative. Legrain likes to dismiss ideas he disagrees with as "nonsense", or "claptrap", or "deluded". He expresses astonishment at the naivety and stupidity of anti-globalisers, pouring scorn on their muddled arguments. Yes, the Kleins and Monbiots of this world deserve to be skewered, but Legrain has some questionable beliefs of his own. Take for example his touching faith in the ability of government to deal with every nasty side effect of globalisation. Some segments of society getting left behind? Easy, increase social spending! (Page 45.) Well, this reviewer, for one, is not convinced. If you want to chastise anti-globalisers, by all means use Legrain's facts. But don't uncritically accept every one of his ready answers to the challenges of globalisation.
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