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Reviewed by:
  • Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital by Kimberly Clausing
  • Franklin Obeng-Odoom (bio)
A Review of Kimberly Clausing, Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019)

A driving motivation of the founders of The Good Society, a recent editorial of this journal reminds us, is the need to re-examine existing institutions on their own terms but also in relation to prevailing political-economic controversies (Throntveit, 2017). Trade wars and immigration walls have become defining features of contemporary capitalism, positioning them as central to the concerns of civic studies scholars. Widely occurring in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, the walling against migrants has metastasized into a war on global trade, freedom, and the other foundations of the good society. The predominant view, on whose wings many political parties have soared to power—including Donald Trump's Republican Party in the U.S.—has blamed immigration and, with it, the globalization of capital as the primary causes of social problems.

However, in Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital, Kimberly Clausing argues that this prevalent paradigm is fundamentally flawed. While it does not deny the unnerving challenges of the US economy, this book challenges their attribution to migration and globalization. Rather, the book claims that these shocking political-economic problems spring from staggering inequality, restrictive trade rules that inhibit more trade, and the restriction of immigration. [End Page 70]

Thus, this book criticizes widely-assumed causes of the current social problems: the American economy needs not less, but more globalisation, more immigration, and more trade, In the words of Clausing, "This book argues that economic inequality is indeed the dominant economic problem of our time, but that the policy solutions to this problem should involve both an embrace of globalization, trade agreements, immigration, and international business, and a much more thorough policy framework to make sure that the benefits from these economic forces accrue to all Americans. The opposite approach … is dangerous and misguided. It will leave the United States a poorer nation with fewer friends, and it will hurt the very workers it claims to help" (8).

This argument is defended in twelve chapters that are carefully crafted and woven into four parts. Following the introduction, where the problem for investigation is presented in chapters 1 and 2, Clausing systematically analyses international trade (where, on balance, trade is seen as a force for good in chapters 3-5), international capital, and labour (where the book looks at MNCs and immigrants in chapters 6-8). On the basis of these analyses, the book delves into various ways of securing the future of the middle class (chapters 9-12). Driven by a particular vision of inclusivity, the book offers a passionate advocacy of concrete strategies, many of which are highlighted in bullet points, which are then developed more thoroughly. Clearly, in the light of the sweeping nativism and corrupted protectionism sweeping across borders, this book swims against the tide, rowing, as it were, against nationalist torrents.

Analytically, Clausing's defence is neoclassical: trade injects capital; trade diversifies the pool from which consumers can make free choices; trade pushes down the prices of goods and services and trade provides a medium to enhance and circulate human capital. Together with the net minimal negative effects of migrants on local economies and the many opportunities for migrants to earn, invest locally, and remit some money to their families, immigration too is to be encouraged. Indeed, not only have migrants made many enviable contributions, they can also do more, if enabled. Thus, Clausing proposes the extension of citizenship to migrants who have obtained advanced skills and could, therefore, be recruited by private capital.

As with most neoclassical economists, Clausing argues that "what is good for society and what is good for business often overlap." She continues: "A … healthy business community generates good job opportunities, a steady stream of innovation, and a dizzying array of affordable consumer options." [End Page 71] Indeed, "A healthy, prosperous society helps business, providing thriving customer markets, a well-educated labour force, and the stable, inclusive institutions and policies that make for...


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pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
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