What the terms ‘globalisation’, ‘protectionism’ really mean

And why it suits American capitalism to promote their incorect use.

When the Internet disrupted every business model going, high-brow media knew they had to grab well-heeled eyeballs to bring in the ad monies. So punditry for the upper classes multiplied exponentially. Inevitably, with all the content available online, scientific terminology filtered down to the masses.

Today, semi-literate laypeople have opinions on political science terms like ‘globalisation’ and ‘protectionism’ informed by the always-on commentary and by politicos politicking, as we shall see.

Not surprisingly, the terms mean completely different things than the masses infer. There is no better way to look into this than a hint of history.

In mercantilism, the role of the state was largely to guarantee the ‘wealth of the nation’, believed to be fixed and finite. So it watched over its gold like a dragon and barricaded domestic industries with tariffs.

Colonisation did create internal markets — but how can trade be ‘free’ when one party is the empire and the other the colony. The American States, even before they were United, were one such market, trading freely among themselves.

All through the 19th century American industry was built on the back of tariffs. That’s not to say tariffs have now completely ceased. America slaps them on many goods, mainly from China. The early American Republic would also send its navy to smash open trading routes — remember the coast of Barbary?

America spent the last century building an empire to call its own with what the world came to know as the smash-and-grab approach to freeing up markets. Latin America was strewn with banana republics so that America’s precious corporations could get their grasping hands on much-coveted resources.

It is American capitalism powered by their own brand of free-market ideals that’s made trade truly global. We’ve arrived at the term ‘globalisation’. Now the whole world is conquered and a single economic system rules supreme where money is made out of money. This is ‘globalisation’ on steroids. Yet, as the long-running trade feud with China unveils, in a sense America is still fiercely ‘protectionist’.

On the point of the current political dynasty, they are simply aligning their interests with time-honoured practices, albeit with odious rapaciousness. A number of analysts have been trying to peel back the layers of the diplomatic attack on Qatar and in doing so pinpoint the role of the dynasty’s business interests:

  • Yes, Qatar has been keeping backchannels with terrorist groups open, but both America and staunch-ally Saudi use them when it suits.
  • As to the Iran justification, Qataris are Sunni muslims while Iranians are of the rival Shia sect, a fact which made that claim seem flimsy from the start.
  • Then there’s Qatar’s liquid gas sales to China when Saudi is missing out on profits by siding with the empire and refusing to sell its oil to the contender. Saudi has not been best pleased with Qatar’s economic success story nor its alliance-making overtures in the Gulf for a while.
  • Finally, the construction boom that various members of the current American ruling dynasty had been trying, and failing, to get in for ages. Of course we must note Trump Organisation ended its Qatar push 6 days after swearing in. American business, in general, is still peeved from losing the 2022 World Cup to the tiny nation.

This one is on the reader to figure out. What we can say is that if prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, as the adage goes, then pimping is the oldest business model — and no technological revolution can shake that.

While American globalisation continues apace, this side of the Atlantic has been discussing Macron’s plan that the European Commission screen third-country investments in order to protect European strategic sectors.

It is no coincidence that Poland’s populist government cried ‘protectionism’ at Macron’s plan — aimed primarily at China. Donald Tusk also used the term, mistakenly in our view as it lends credibility to an incorrect picture of trade dynamics. However, it’s understandable as he was mainly addressing the masses in countries with Chinese investments, and this is the layman language they understand.

In true European style a compromise was reached and while the Commission will “analyse” foreign investments in strategic sectors, member states would still be the decision-makers. The EU summit managed to slip in some anti-dumping measures and the rule of “reciprocity” on access to public contracts to safeguard form the “law of the jungle,” in Macron’s words. No doubt the EU will be deemed deeply ‘protectionist’ and, in the same breath, a perpetrator of ‘globalisation’, as ever.

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