The roots of (some) public opinion about globalisation

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What are French and German students learning about globalisation?

“Economic growth imposes a hectic form of life, producing overwork, stress, nervous depression, cardiovascular disease and, according to some, even the development of cancer,” asserts Histoire du XXe siècle, a text memorised by French high-school students as they prepare for entrance exams to prestigious universities…

In several texts, students are taught that globalisation leads to violence and armed resistance, requiring a new system of world governance. “Capitalism” is described as “brutal”, “savage” and “American”. French students do not learn economics so much as a highly biased discourse about economics…

German textbooks emphasise corporatist and collectivist traditions and the minutiae of employer-employee relations – a zero-sum world where one loses what the other gains. People who run companies are caricatured as idle, cigar-smoking plutocrats…

Describing globalisation, another text has sections headed “Revival of Manchester Capitalism”, “Brazilianisation of Europe” and “Return of the Dark Ages”. India and China are successful, the book explains, because they practise state ownership and protectionism, while the freest markets are in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Like many French and German books, it suggests students learn more by contacting the anti-globalisation group Attac.

It is no surprise that the continent’s schools teach through a left-of-centre lens. The surprise is the intensity of the anti-market bias. Students learn that companies destroy jobs, while government policy creates them. Globalisation is destructive, if not catastrophic. Business is a zero-sum game. If this is the belief system within which most students develop intellectually, is it any wonder French and German reformers are so easily shouted down?

That’s Stefan Theil in the Financial Times (sub. req.), but read the unabridged version at Foreign Policy.

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