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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Soccer and globalization

    Eric Reichenbacher columnist
    Eric Reichenbacher
    columnist

    Every Friday, promptly at 5:30 p.m., the Dance building on the east end of campus casts a perfect soccer pitch-shaped shadow on the verdant UA Mall. What ensues cannot be made up. In a scene reminiscent of “”Field of Dreams,”” students from all over the world materialize and begin lacing up their cleats to play soccer. Togolese, Kazakhs, French, Brazilians and a smattering of Americans join the fray until all seven continents, save Antarctica, are represented. These weekly “”friendlies”” are microcosmic analogies of a much larger game that is being played out in every corner of the world: globalization.

    We are not just playing against fellow Americans anymore, and this deepening pool of international talent ensures that each competition will be more hard-fought than the last. Everyone with the talent and desire, regardless of national allegiance or language, can play the game; however, only the truly innovative will succeed in finding the back of the net.

    The new global economy, like soccer, is based on comparative advantage and specialization. In soccer, the Brazilians creatively open up scoring opportunities, Germans pass the ball with surgeon-like precision, Africans chase it down quickly and Americans, well, we play basketball. When these players get together on the field under a truly international company like Chelsea or Barcelona FC, it is obvious why they call soccer the “”beautiful game.””

    In the same vein, when America’s research and design talents team up with India’s computer tech savvy and China’s ability to mass produce, a company can be equally beautiful, providing more people with cheap, quality products that make our lives better. However, with the liberalization of massive economies, the connectivity afforded by the propagation of Information and Communication Technology and generally rising standards of living in the developing world, globalization is unleashing a torrent of workers who will challenge our comparative advantage. Indians, Chinese and Eastern Europeans are out for your position on the team.

    What’s that, you say? You think you’re immune to the most egregious vagaries of this new global economic order in which rent-seeking behavior – profiting by manipulating the changes in the economic market – can send money and jobs overseas at a moment’s notice? Not an aspiring widget producer? Don’t be so sure – a university degree and American citizenship may no longer ensure you the cushy, lucrative employment that we have become accustomed to. The invisible coach of “”Team Global”” could replace you.

    We are no longer just competing with the rest of the world in manufacturing and menial service tasks – the youth soccer league of the global economy. The developing world is making deep inroads in increasingly value-added industries, such as management, banking and software design – the pros, just the type of employment sought by recent college graduates. (Hey, that’s you in only one to four years!) For example, The Economist reported earlier this week that the Chinese now own three of the world’s six largest companies.

    The Chinese are ascending the production ladder with unrivaled fastidiousness. As New York Times columnist and unabashed globalization supporter Thomas Friedman tactfully puts it: “”In 30 years we will have gone from ‘made in China’ to ‘designed in China’ to ‘dreamed up in China.'”” And China is not the only place where our economic hegemony is being challenged. How’s that for sobering?

    Even while traveling in globalization’s deepest backwater – Africa – this summer, I was taken by the amazing competitive potential and overwhelming ambition that has been booming of late. With the diffusion of information and connectivity via the Internet, many Africans have access to the same information that we do – so much that a friend in Cameroon quoted Rutherford B. Hayes in a discussion we were having on political theory!

    If they have access to speeches of our most obscure presidents, there is no limit to the information and empowerment that they can gain. This empowering force yields an overwhelming zeal and self-confidence – and rightfully so. Another Cameroonian friend made it glaringly obvious when he looked me in the eye and said: “”If I was given the opportunities, I know I would succeed. I’ve never doubted my abilities.”” In our globalization game, other countries not only have the innate talent but they also want the ball more.

    This is not intended to incite any fear-mongering of foreign competition or reactionary isolationism. Globalization – the spread of global capitalism – is a democratic and equalizing process that provides more and more people with a chance to prosper, regardless of their geographic place of birth. Putting the brakes on this process would be imprudent and unjust. Americans should embrace globalization and must continually differentiate themselves, becoming quicker and more creative to stay in control of the ball and retain their competitive advantage.

    Eric Reichenbacher is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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