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3.6 out of 5 stars
Open World: The Truth about Globalisation
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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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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 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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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 17 November 2003
Philip Legrain's ambitiously titled Open World: The Truth about Globalisation adds a new dimension to the debate on globalisation: a new defender of the benefits of the global village. Having worked for both the World Trade Organisation and The Economist, Legrain's credentials seem impeccable, and he quickly launches into an impassioned defence of the benefits of economic globalisation, enthusiastically attacking Naomi Klein's No Logo, arguing that "the beauty of globalisation is that it can free people from the tyranny of geography" in offering new possibilities for international and global cooperation and cultural intermingling.
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on 26 May 2004
A very good book, would be my initial view. It does make a strong arguement FOR the possibilities of globalisation, and Mr Legrain is no fool to try and assert the view that globalisation is currently being used to its full and most utilitarian potential.
Not Solely a fight back against the likes of Naomi Klein, Mr Legrain puts forward many strong points and compelling arguements - but it must be mentioned that being an Economist it is quite obvious that alot of the same arguements are based primarily in Economics and do not fully assess and at points only brushes the surface on the Social aspects of the problems.
But even with this view in mind it IS well worth the read and a nice addition to the collection.
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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 4 November 2003
Tired of trite, cynical spiel from well-fed prophets of apocalypse, I opened this book looking for a fresh, realistic and constructive view of globalization and that was what I found. I wish I had read Philippe Legrain long ago, when I debated an antiglobalizer during a long hike on the hills. I had come to expect all greens and leftists to be nostalgic for medieval times and economic autarky! Legrain states the case for globalisation (albeit the interventionist kind) brilliantly and convincingly. The style is really accessible too: you do not have to be an economist to understand his arguments. He successfully challenges almost every myth you have heard about globalization and the supposedly omnipotence of big corporations.What's more surprising, he does this from a center-left point of view. His is a much-needed contribution to the globalization debate. Hey, kids, don't burn your Nikes just yet, read this book first!
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on 19 August 2003
A fresh voice is leading the fight back against the anti-globalising doomsayers - 29-year old ex-journalist Philippe Legrain. His book is worth reading for many reasons. One is that his case for globalisation is from a centre-left perspective. He explains why free trade benefits both Western consumers and Third World workers. Far from passing sovereignty to multinational companies, globalisation is the best way of restraining them.
Secondly, this is not dry theory. Legrain has talked to those at globalisation’s frontline, from Nike’s so called “sweatshops” in Vietnam to Midwestern steelworkers. Legrain’s punchy prose is littered with real world examples and anecdotes from his travels. The result is a rare work of political economy that will appeal to a readership far beyond the political obsessives.
Finally, this is not a one-sided rant. Legrain's analysis is balanced and thoughtful. With equal force, he takes on both the pro- and anti-globalisers who argue that globalisation is inevitable. Both stifle the debate by denying that democratic countries can choose the extent to which they open-up. On the whole, Legrain argues persuasively that countries should embrace the economic, social and cultural benefits of globalisation. But that does not compel them to accept every liberalising proposal. For example, while poor countries should welcome foreign direct investment they should be cautious about freeing other capital flows.
It is currently fashionable for centre-left thinkers to turn their backs on liberalism and internationalism. This book is the clearest statement yet of why they are wrong.
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