Monday, July 23, 2007

FT/Harris Poll: Public rejects "globalization"

Much hand-wringing must be underway in corporate PR offices around the world: Apparently, people are not happy with the way companies do business, nor do they trust or admire their executives, according to a recent poll.

According to the prevailing analysis, such attitudes are regrettable insofar as they leave the average citizen vulnerable to the "rhetoric" of "populist politicians." Such inversions of reality are common in instances where business has provoked the wrath of the general population: Unable to acknowledge any contradiction between private enrichment and social health, it is the political system which must be blamed. However, if democratic representation has any value, it is an odd argument which complains that politicians might abuse their constituents by adopting their position.

1 comment:

J.R. Boyd said...

Globalisation generates dark thoughts

The Financial Times
July 23, 2007

By Chris Giles in London

Citizens of rich countries feel insecure. They see globalisation as damaging to their interests, they worry about rising inequalities, they are unimpressed by those running their largest companies and want politicians to make the world more equal.

Those are the stark results of the FT/Harris opinion poll, which apply in every country surveyed, whether in the US or UK with their more liberal economic cultures or in the more dirigiste continental European economies.

The results open the way for populist politicians to win support by anti-globalisation rhetoric and promising greater regulatory control of economies.

Even though defining globalisation defies many experts, the people in rich countries think dark thoughts when they hear the term. In no country polled did more people believe globalisation was having a positive effect on their countries than thought it was having a negative effect. Britain, the US and Spain stand out with less than a fifth of respondents thinking globalisation was beneficial.

Since most economists believe globalisation has been a boost to the economic performance of rich countries as well as poor, these results are worrying.

Part of the concern about globalisation is almost certainly the public’s feeling that the gap between rich and the poor in their countries was getting larger. More than three-quarters of respondents in every country except Spain thought that inequality was rising.

The greater rewards earned by corporate executives go down badly with the rest of the population in rich countries. Only in Italy is there a majority who say they admire the people running their largest companies a fair amount or more. Britain and the US are least likely to respect corporate bosses, with 38 per cent of those polled in the UK saying they do not admire at all the people in charge of the largest companies.

And everywhere, in Europe and in the US, a large majority supports more taxation for the highest earners. Contrary to many preconceptions, the lowest support for higher taxes on the rich came in France, where a still-sizeable 52 per cent were in favour.

So much for the consensus. National differences also arose in many of the questions in the FT/Harris poll. A marked divergence arose between evidence and public impression in response to a question on whether people have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Many studies of inter-generational inequality show that the children of the poor are much more likely also to be poor in the US and in the UK than in continental European economies. But it is precisely the Anglo-Saxon countries where a much higher proportion of people have the impression that social background does not matter so much for economic opportunity.

A strong transatlantic divide is also evident when people debate what should be done about high executive pay. In most of Europe, almost two-thirds of people think governments should set pay caps for heads of companies, compared with only a third in the US.

In France, Spain and Germany, people want governments to go further. Many more people think that politicians play too small a role in the economy than believe their role is too large. In Italy, however, most think they play too big a role.

But the results do not show that all competition between countries is bad. Across Europe, a large majority thinks free competition should be one of the EU’s objectives. The message is clear: the public want competition among rich countries but feel threatened by emerging countries.