At the weekend I shared sparkling wine (English, as it happened) with some Marxists. OK, so I did not go drinking specifically with Marxists, they happened to be at the flat-warming I went to. But they are Marxists, and unashamedly so. Their basic premise is that a lot of people have had their living standards hollowed out by globalisation. Another guest - from more of a right-wing perspective - seemed to agree that while trade and migration within the EU and NAFTA had generated wealth overall it had produced some pretty worrying side-effects.
My main contention was that in the long term, say the next fifty to a hundred years, these imbalances will become less marked as developing countries catch up on living standards and so will be less able to undercut rich-world workers. Trade restrictions cannot be tough enough to undermine the cost advantages that China, India et al. have at the moment, and it would be thoroughly immoral (not to mention self-defeating) to try to stop poor countries from getting rich by selling us stuff. While the Marxists may pine for an era of an enthusiastic proletariat (yes, someone actually used the word) working in Utopian steel factories, we cannot turn back the clock even if we wanted to.
So, can the people and governments of the world do anything to mitigate the most negative effects of rapid globalisation, whether they are exploitation of workers in poor countries or the undermining of traditional working class industries and skills in the rich world? Should we try to? Or should we try to get through this stage of the world's economic development as quickly as possible, by streamlining the whole process, with the hope that in a few decades' time many many more people can expect a comfortable living whichever part of the globe they are born in?