when globalization hits home

Brent Finnegan -- December 7th, 2007

There are two seemingly unrelated stories in the local news today that brought to mind the effects of globalization in the Valley. TV3 reports that “89,000 fewer people will be farmers in 2016, compared to now.” Although that’s a national statistic, one would assume that trend will apply to farmers in the Valley, as well.

The DNR reports that the ESL enrollment in city schools is expected to continue to increase next year. According to that story, Spotswood elementary is projected to have 59 percent ESL enrollment by fall 2008.

Globalization means different things to different people. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page for “globalization” indicates that its definition and effects are disputed. But at its core, it’s about achieving the highest profit margins at the lowest prices. Webster’s defines it as “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets.”

I realize I’m outside of my realm of expertise here — perhaps Deb SF would like to shed some light on the topic — but here’s how I understand it: along with the movement of goods and capital comes imported food; thus, a reduced need for local farms. And along with low production costs in other countries comes an exodus of people from areas where the wages are lowest to areas where unemployment is lowest; hence the increase in immigration and ESL numbers in Harrisonburg.

There are those who appear to have embraced globalization in the region, as evidenced in this short essay from 2003, found on the Shenandoah Valley Partnership website:

… U.S. regions like the Shenandoah Valley are grappling with the same economic forces, though from a different perspective. In the U.S., globalization typically has a Mexican, Indian, or Chinese face. The question arises: How do we compete in an increasingly integrated global economy with countries where wage levels are one-tenth, or even less, of what they are here at home? How do we achieve economic growth and rising incomes when foot-loose corporate capital migrates to countries with the lowest costs and lowest wages?

[…] the Shenandoah Valley is a place where innovation and productivity thrive in a small-town environment…. a place characterized by artistic, scientific and entrepreneurial creativity…. a place where the people are learning to reconcile the Lexus with the olive tree.

But there are plenty of Valley residents who are clearly opposed to the adverse effects of globalization. The local food movement, or “locavorism” is evidence of resistance to the outsourcing of farming. And one only need glance at the comments on today’s DNR story to see what many many Valley residents think about the influx of immigrants into the area.

I currently see no magic solution that can fix all the negative aspects of globalization. I may be able to get some of my food from the downtown farmer’s market in the summer, but where do I shop in the winter? Where do I find shoes that weren’t made in an Asian sweatshop? What is a civic-minded, locally-conscious individual to do?

17 Responses to “when globalization hits home”

  1. Frank J Witt says:

    Does buying chicken at the Timberville plant count as local. The prices they have in their store are remarkable. $1.39 for 10/12 count wings vs. $1.65 from US Foods. They also carry a variety of pre-cooked frozen chicken products that are in 10# boxes that the kids really like at home. Most of those are $1.00/lb.

  2. Seth says:

    59% ESL students at Spotswood Elementary by 08. wow. i’m interested to know whether people believe this will reach a point where it is just no longer sustainable. i think that it is important to remember that successive generations will be native speakers, largely alleviating this burden, but it seems that in the short term, we should know where the crisis point is and work to implement policies and provide resources to keep from reaching it.

  3. republitarian says:

    I went to Spotswood Elementary for k-6 grades. I remember one hispanic in my entire grade and about 5 black kids.

    How times have changed………

  4. finnegan says:

    I’m also guessing there was more local farmland, more local farmers, more locally-owned grocery stores, fewer (or no) Wal-Marts, and no readily accessible Internet when you were in elementary school.

    The times will always change. That’s inevitable. I’m more interested in figuring out ways to influence HOW they change, and to ensure they change for the better.

  5. Frank J Witt says:

    Back in Hazleton, PA there was 1 black family, 1 Indian family and that was it. However, times they be a changin’


  6. David Miller says:

    The trick to globalization is this. We encourage capital (investment) to move to where the cheapest labor is. We introduce things like NAFTA to the equation. So Corporations have global access to labor, capital and markets. People on the other hand have been left out of the equation as far as the right to move as corporations do. Therefore we have the inequality we see today. This inequality breeds resentment in communities like ours where we have “concerned citizens/DNR readers, ‘If I wanna feed a bunch of little brown people with my paycheck – I’ll send Sally Struthers some cash!’ ” who are A. ignorant of many facts, B. outraged at the outcome of this magic economic pill called Globalization. Turns out the politicians who pushed it, didn’t mention all of the “fringe benefits”. (This coming from a guy/me who thinks that globalization is positive if properly regulated-ie. Fixing the inequalities).


  7. David Miller says:

    Who are we as citizens of the earth to tell Mexicans that we can put factories in their country and exploit their cheap labor and then export the labor savings back to US Corporations; but they are not allowed to do the same-Work here and send money home to feed their families. If a politician tells me that this argument is incorrect, I get to laugh at their pandering to the mob. Matt Lohr did a pretty good job of either pandering or proving his ignorance in the last election with his flyers. Just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong. Just ask Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has a great quote for this.

  8. Deb SF says:

    I think your summary is excellent. All of these resource and production shifts generate costs for the losers, and benefits for the winners. The issue of easing the costs as resources flows and production realigns is the central issue for policymakers and for individuals.

    The sociologists and psych folks can speak to this better than I can, but I think that one factor that intensifies the economic pain of the businesses and workers who are on the losing end of the globalization realignment is the cultural globalization that goes along with all these resource and price shifts. I’ve “only” lived in the valley since 1985, and remember a JMU of less than 10,000 and a community that wasn’t nearly as multicultural is it is now, as measured by everything from the # of ESL kids in the public schools to stuff like the number of ethnic restaurants in town. The sense of being economically harmed by these international shifts is made so much worse by the sense of losing your town, your sense of heritage and identity. Some fairly extreme economic and immigration policies are fueled in part by this sense of “them” coming here, taking our jobs, our income, our security, and now, making my town/state/country look like some place I don’t even recognize.

    This is happening in lots of places in many ways, of course; London of 1990 looks a lot different than London of 2005, much of it looks a hell of a lot like New York City. Do I want to see 20 zillion Starbucks and Burger Kings and Barnes and Nobles take the place of the coffee and tea shops, the fish and chips places and bookstores that used to be everywhere? No. And I feel a resentment that the differences that I used to cherish between *places* I care about are being globalized away as everywhere starts to look like everyplace else. During my Planning Commission days, I devoured books on development and will never forget the James Howard Kunstler’s phrase that captured this idea; “The Geography of Nowhere”. Harrisonburg Crossing is a superlative example; stand in the parking lot and you could be in any strip mall anywhere. Fairfax, Omaha, Austin, Tampa.

    London is a city I love, but it’s not my town. This resentment I feel is a teeny version of what I imagine long term valley residents feel when they can’t read the signs in Spanish above a new grocery store on Main Street.

  9. Rachel says:

    It is difficult, this one, especially when you’re in favour of cultural globalization, as I am, but not a supporter so much as globalization of capital, or free trade. When it comes to trade I would be more of a supporter of regionalization, ie trading within the Americas, North & South. But it certainly needs to be regulated by an organisation that takes into account the best interests of all parties involved, ie small holders or workers in both areas. To me, free trade has worked to line the pockets of corporations who are making the agreements, and to fill the wallets of higher-up government officials or party members.
    Although I’m originally an H’burg townie type, I live in Northern Ireland, where I’m the immigrant. We’re experiencing a peace time influx of immigrants – mostly Eastern Europeans & Africans. The local population hasn’t experienced an influx like this since the 17/1800s when Scots came to replace Irish landowners. Whilst there is a great amount of apprehension amongst the local or native population, this wave is a good thing. In an insular community (even more provincial than the Shenandoah Valley in many ways), these new folks are challenging cultural norms.
    I could continue to ramble in a disorganised way, but I digress…

  10. Deb SF says:

    Londoners like their Starbucks and B&N, and who am I to deny them all these options. The Nothern Ireland immigration experience must be fascinating to watch.

    H’burg is a much more interesting, open and vibrant city than it was 20 years ago because of the different folks moving to the valley. But, jeez, I really don’t want every place to look the same as everywhere else.

    After all, there remains the war cry of our fair city:


  11. finnegan says:

    Ah, Rachel. Nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. I can see your American spelling has been completely adulterated (or corrected, depending on how you look at it).

    I’m with Deb — I love to travel to new places and see things I can’t see here. When I went to Dublin, I felt like I might as well have been in NYC. What’s the point of spending all that time and money to travel somewhere that has lost it’s uniqueness?

  12. Rachel says:

    I’m just back from a trip to London. There ARE Starbucks on nearly every corner… in Central London. Once you get out into the less touristy places, you’ll find British chains and local bakeries dominating the quick coffee market. Same with Dublin, which is now overrun with Eastern European immigrants, much like other parts of Europe.

    (I spy on Hburg News from afar, I must admit. It’s my favo(u)rite way to keep up with the fair town’s happenings.)

  13. Justin C says:

    I agree with a lot of what has been said, but one thing that has completed been looked over are the health benefits of eating locally grown food. It’s not just a fight against globalization.

    When you eat locally grown food it’s often times organically, or at least less toxically, grown then many products you find in grocery store chains which have so many preservatives.

    Also, let me put on the environmental hat and say it’s ludicrous to ship food as far as we do. When you buy a bag of beans and see that it was grown across an ocean and think of all the effort it took to get those beans to you imagine how much energy you’re saving when you buy local.

    There, that said I’m all for globalization is many ways.

  14. David Miller says:

    The PayDay lender spokesman was quoted as saying About 95 percent of those working people pay their loan back in full “on or about they day they are due,” according to the company report.”. So let’s take their word for it and assume that 95% of their customers do pay back the loans within the time and let’s assume (unnecessarily drastic but the best way to assume) that the other 5% defaulted completely. This means that if a payday institution loans out $100,000 annually they would make $14,250. That’s the most modest estimate of revenue for this business scheme. Now ponder what really happens to the 5% default, do they completely default or are they revolving debtors? What’s the business’s projected lending volume for the year (the reason I ask this is because the argument has been made that they would go out of business at the 36% rate, so let’s prove it). The above figures constituted 1,000 customers a year with a $100 loan apiece. If I had 1,000 customers a year, I’d go out of business too.

    The DNR quoted the statistic at this “434,000” loans worth “$1.3 billion”. Let’s do the math. At 391% APR, that’s a killing, even at the claimed rate of15% its $154,500,000. Divided between the 800 estimated stores open in VA, that’s $193,125 profit (pre tax and expenses) But that 15% is not 15% as Heather Bowser reported, so what is their rake.

    Generally Accepted Accounting Principals for APR are as follows.

    “Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is an expression of the effective interest rate that the borrower will pay on a loan, taking into account one-time fees and standardizing the way the rate is expressed. In other words the APR is the total cost of credit to the consumer, expressed as an annual percentage of the amount of credit granted. APR is intended to make it easier to compare lenders and loan options.”

    The reason I make this argument is not to put this industry out of business. I am a very passionate free enterprise supporter. Everyday I deal with the hassles and headaches of bureaucracy. I do believe that corporations allowed to exist uninhibited will operate in any way necessary for maximum stockholder benefit and are very dangerous to society. So let’s take the argument from that stance. Tax returns for publicly traded companies are public, maybe a reporter who wanted to report could find out some of the answers (like what do you make a year off of VA’s poor because yes I do believe that a household of two making $40,000 a year are poor) instead of simply repeating the “We’d go out of business” mantra that they use against these obvious Communists who want to make lending fair and equitable, Kind of like the Fair Lending Practices

  15. Tim says:

    It’s late and I’m sick of everythingh, but I just have to say that the main thing that I believe is ruining American is an idea the profit is justified with out question. “If you are making money…slap on the back, roll on.”

    The cycle works on a digest…consume what you desire, poop out what you don’t use…then you’re young’uns consume your processed waste. They live off of it, and beome strong…then they poop. I’ll avoid talking about what you personally eat.). Not a watercolor, but true.

    I was recentelly accused of being a communist for making the statement that business could survive without taking advantage of poeple…business is our creation…why is it our master?

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