“The pauper labor argument: foreign competition is unfair and hurts other countries when it is based on low wages.”

– Paul R. Krugman and Maurice Obstfeld International Economics, Theory and Policy

This excerpted definition is from my current economics textbook. It is in context of the authors’ presentation of how arguments critical of the current global market are “myths.” Of all the evidence, I chose this definition to convey my point simply because it is my favorite. Take particular note of the word “pauper”- as if to assume people of lower economic means and labor unions illegitimately argue that workers across the world are being perpetually exploited.

Sometimes when I cozily read textbooks in my upscale university’s library, I come across ideas and notions that go against everything I’ve learned and seen in regions of the world such as South Asia or Central America. I guess what makes everything even more difficult for me to grasp, however, is that these blind justifications for the existence of worldwide starvation and poverty are what most of the students of my generation are going to take with them – all the way to the cafe across from their offices at Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter. It is too depressing to think about on a regular basis, but it is something to be conscious of: that we are disproportionately blessed as students at this university. Proof of this is this completely propagandist economics textbook that most of us have read, or will read at some point in our Georgetown career.

Institutionalized lies are the scariest kinds of lies, because they are believed on such a wide scale. This is possible because true poverty and true desperation are so perfectly hidden from our privileged eyes. This Friday marks the Fifth Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Cancun, Mexico and with it, the always present protests. A huge rally is being organized in solidarity with those in Cancun right here, in our very own Washington, D.C. Now frankly I’ll admit, I have my own criticisms of much of the organized “anti-globalization” dissent. I have certainly attended such events, and have often felt uncomfortable by the counterpart institutionalized lies and the pervasiveness of mob mentality among the leftist communities of this country. This is the personal opinion that I have formed and I have therefore decided that such events aren’t exactly my cup of tea.

Regardless, this controversy over global poverty is set to become more and more relevant throughout the fall. The annual meeting of the IMF/World Bank in late September, and FTAA protests and Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride in October and November are all huge events that will occur in close proximity to each other. I will not advocate that people should attend or should not attend, but I think this is an important time to learn about what is happening – perhaps from a source outside the realm of an econ textbook. A little bit of selflessness and open-mindedness can be a difficult endeavor, but whoever is up for it – take the time to learn a little bit about how the majority of less privileged people in this world are exploited and violated on a daily basis. They suffer so that we can wear cheap clothes and eat cheap food; so that we can live happy and healthy (if not gluttonous) lives. But whatever opinions you form or already have formed about worldwide dissent to global capitalism, always be wary of the people who define an entire chunk of the world’s population as “paupers,” as well as the people who try and get you to scream out things you don’t know if you believe. Look at the globalized world empathetically yet cynically, and try to understand all the arguments surrounding it – as well as their critical weaknesses.

Sonia Mukhi is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. A Young Woman’s Pen appears every other Friday.

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