Yale Law Professor Amy Chua Discusses Effects and Dangers of Globalization

Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, spoke to the students about markets, democracy, and ethnicity at the All-School Meeting Wednesday. Ms. Chua’s recent work, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability became a New York Times bestseller. Both the Economist and the Guardian heralded it as “one of the best books of 2003.” First Ms. Chua defined globalization, on its most basic level, as technological improvements shrinking the global community. She emphasized the dangerous aspect of such accessible information and comunication, which enables groups of militant Islamists or suicide bombers to form online communities. Ms. Chua then went on to describe the two major forces behind globalization: markets and democracy. Globalization and capitalism together has led to formation of groups Chua refers to as “market-dominant minorities.” These groups consists of any ethnic minorities, such as the Chinese in the Philippines or whites in South Africa, which control a country’s economy and government, and thus become a target of resentment to the indigenous people. “The biggest point I want to make though is that we don’t have any market dominant minorities in the United States. We have a lot of racial and ethical problems but we don’t have this issue of dominant minorities,” Ms. Chua explained. She then mentioned that in developing countries with a market-dominant minority, it is especially difficult to implement a free market and democracy. Installing a free market in these unstable countries would give more power to the market-dominant minorities, whereas implementing democracy would give power to the indigenous people, who oppose the dominant minorities. If the indigenous people rebelled against the minorities, the minorities would leave the country – taking the majority of the country’s money with them – and thus, severely upsetting its economy. “American policy makers don’t understand the differences between our society and other societies and recommend policies that work pretty well here [for conflicted countries]…but these policies may not work the same way [over there],” Ms. Chua said. Ms. Chua went on to give an example of a country that was affected poorly by the implementation of market and democracy. She explained how Yugoslavia, after the fall of Communism, became a democracy and proceeded to elect Slobodan Milosevic, infamous for the mass murder of Croatians. She noted that one of Milosevic’s campaign slogans was “We will kill Croatians with rusty spoons because then it will hurt more.” Thus, as Yugoslovia demonstrates, democracy in the wrong hands can have catastrophic consequences. Ms. Chua continued to explain, “I favor promoting democracy but we should not take the American constitution, Xerox it, cross out the [United States], and write [insert developing country name here].” Ms. Chua concluded that the US should think more about what kind of markets and democracy would fit the country rather than rushing to a decision that could harm the country for many years. Her second reason for understanding globalization was that the United States itself has come to be perceived as a kind of global market-dominant minority. Ms. Chua said that the United States, which constitutes only 4% of the world population, is ubiquitous as “the principal engine and the principal beneficiary of global capitalism.” She continued, saying that the United States “has become object of mass popular demagogue fuel presented and hatred of the same kind as directed at so many other market dominant minorities around the world.” Ms. Chua pointed out that when she spoke to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), she realized that many countries including Canada, France, Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands now hold a more favorable view of China than the United States, although China is known for its “terrible” human rights record and censorship. “I think that the key question for your generation is how do we, in the United States, respond to the reality that America is the most powerful country in the world, the freest country in the world, but we are not universally loved and admired,” Ms. Chua said.