WIDER Annual Lecture 6
Winners and Losers in Two Centuries of Globalization
Jeffrey Williamson is renowned as both an exemplary teacher and an outstanding scholar of economic history. His work has covered—and continues to cover—a wide range of historical and contemporary topics, including growth, trade, migration, living standards and inequality. All these themes are prominent in this lecture, which offers a broad perspective on the global impact of trade and factor flows over many centuries. He begins by noting that while world inequality has been trending upwards for most of the past 500 years, ‘globalization’—which he defines in terms of commodity price convergence across regions of the world—only began around 1820. During the ‘first global century’ up to 1913, lower transport costs and tariffs stimulated trade, which together with relatively free factor mobility created powerful egalitarian forces on a world scale. However, as Williamson stresses, not everyone stood to benefit from a continuation of these policies and the period from 1913-50 was characterized by an anti-globalization backlash under which restrictions on migration and rising tariffs resulted in price divergence across countries. The period from 1950 until the present day constitutes the second globalization era. It differs, however, from the first global century in one important respect—the mass labour migrations that were the main globalization force in the nineteenth century have been replaced by immigration controls, leaving trade (aided by tariff reductions) as the principal source of international price convergence. In weaving together the economic, political and demographic factors which help to explain the pattern of living standards across countries and over time, Williamson draws heavily on his past work with a variety of coauthors. Readers will be impressed by the breadth of his vision, the detailed evidence offered in support of his views, and the important implications that follow for the way in which the world is likely to develop over the next half century.The 6th WIDER Annual Lecture was given by Professor Jeffrey Williamson in Helsinki on 5th September 2002, under the title ‘Winners and Losers in Two Centuries of Globalization’.