The integration of the world economy is not only reshaping business but also reordering the lives of individuals, creating new social classes, different jobs, unimaginable wealth, and, occasionally, wretched poverty. From Washington to Beijing, politicians are increasingly defined in terms of their attitudes toward globalization. The key political arguments of the next few years--between Islam and the West, Euroskeptics and Europhiles, the new left and the old--will all be variations arising from one underlying conflict: the one between globalizers who want to see the world reshaped in their own image and traditionalists who want to preserve fragments of traditional culture and local independence.
Micklethwait and Wooldridge are advocates of the former, not the latter. In A Future Perfect--a rich synthesis of anecdote, analysis, and argument--they make a strong case both for globalization's economic benefits and its classically liberal underpinnings. They acknowledge frustration with public debates over globalization that "always seem to involve a shuttered textile factory in South Carolina, never a young African child sitting at a computer; always a burning Amazonian forest, never a young Brazilian investment banker; always The Lion King or the Spice Girls, never the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao." A Future Perfect relentlessly reports the upside of globalization--the book is full of stories--and makes the vital point that more than economics is at stake. At bottom, write Micklethwait and Wooldridge, the issue is freedom. They bemoan "restrictions on where people can go, what they can buy, where they can invest, and what they can read, hear, or see. Globalization by its nature brings down these barriers, and it helps to hand the power to choose to the individual." Like a good article in The Economist, A Future Perfect is well written and concise. It also renders complicated subjects understandable, and has the welcome effect of making readers feel smarter for having cracked its spine. Much has been written about globalization; this book may be the best of the bunch thus far. --John J. Miller