Globalization gurus like Friedman are always quick to point out that the phenomenon is not new. Some leading pontificators on the subject think we are in the third wave of it, the first having begun in the Age of Exploration, with Columbus and Magellan. Others think globalization goes back only to the heyday of the British Empire, in the midnineteenth century. What all of them are united on, however, is that it is a good thing because it is free trade between free people. And it is an inevitable thing, they add, because it is a force of nature. A call of destiny. A historical imperative.
It is The Way Things Ought to Be.
When pushed further, the gurus will tell you why they think this. They will tell you that globalization is also The Way Things Have Been Before. They will point out to you the British Empire. That, they will say, is what globalization looked like once. That's how it worked once. And since what the Romans were to the Greeks, we are to the British, that's also where we should be heading. After all, wasn't the British Empire, indisputably, A Good Thing?
Were the British the one (and only) angelic imperialists? We are not in a position to say one way or other, nor do we think we will ever be in such a position, but we offer a caveat to the argument itself: If what we had under the British Empire was globalization, then whatever globalization was, it was not free trade. And we also offer a corollary to the caveat: If what we are looking for ...