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Deglobalization and the Rise of Smart Protectionism

Globalization was intended to eliminate borders for the benefit of the free flow of trade, investment, information and people. It has had a good degree of success in accomplishing that, but the blowback from the globalization process has had a variety of unintended consequences, ranging from the breakdown of democracy in some countries and various forms of social disintegration to the spread of disease and deterioration of the environment. Another is the rise of self-interest among individuals and countries that believe they have either largely been left out of the process, or have failed to benefit from it in a meaningful way.

Whether actually justified based on facts, those American voters who subscribed to this view as a justification for voting for Trump have found that a lot of like-minded voters around the world have taken their grievances to the voting booth. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world believe the net negatives associated with globalization now outweigh the net positives, giving rise not just to an anti-globalization backlash, but the rise of populism and a desire to reclaim national sovereignty. Globalization was supposed to remove borders, but now many are wondering whether the model upon which globalization was built was simply fallacious, and whether sovereignty and national interest matter anymore.

Many nationalist political movements around the world have gained the traction they have for a variety of reasons, ranging from economic hardship to problems associated with mass immigration to a desire for change. What they have in common is the need to resolve the question of what their country’s ‘destiny’ is, and how citizens can attempt to control it. To many of them, globalization appears to be exactly contrary to the objective of asserting control over their economies and lives. They are asking themselves whether globalization was really all about self-interest in the first place, and how many of the corporate “champions” of globalization would be participating if they ended up making a loss in the process.

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