How To Organize Economies: An Overview of Economic Systems

The Rise of Globalization

Recent decades have seen a trend toward globalization, which is the expanding cultural, political, and economic connections between people around the world. One measure of this is the increased buying and selling of goods, services, and assets across national borders—in other words, international trade and financial capital flows.

Globalization has occurred for a number of reasons. Improvements in shipping, as illustrated by the container ship in Figure, and air cargo have driven down transportation costs. Innovations in computing and telecommunications have made it easier and cheaper to manage long-distance economic connections of production and sales. Many valuable products and services in the modern economy can take the form of information—for example: computer software; financial advice; travel planning; music, books and movies; and blueprints for designing a building. These products and many others can be transported over telephones and computer networks at ever-lower costs. Finally, international agreements and treaties between countries have encouraged greater trade.

Table presents one measure of globalization. It shows the percentage of domestic economic production that was exported for a selection of countries from 2010 to 2015, according to an entity known as The World Bank. Exports are the goods and services that one produces domestically and sells abroad. Imports are the goods and services that one produces abroad and then sells domestically. Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the size of total production in an economy. Thus, the ratio of exports divided by GDP measures what share of a country’s total economic production is sold in other countries.

Country 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Higher Income Countries
United States 12.4 13.6 13.6 13.5 13.5 12.6
Belgium 76.2 81.4 82.2 82.8 84.0 84.4
Canada 29.1 30.7 30.0 30.1 31.7 31.5
France 26.0 27.8 28.1 28.3 29.0 30.0
Middle Income Countries
Brazil 10.9 11.9 12.6 12.6 11.2 13.0
Mexico 29.9 31.2 32.6 31.7 32.3 35.3
South Korea 49.4 55.7 56.3 53.9 50.3 45.9
Lower Income Countries
Chad 36.8 38.9 36.9 32.2 34.2 29.8
China 29.4 28.5 27.3 26.4 23.9 22.4
India 22.0 23.9 24.0 24.8 22.9 -
Nigeria 25.3 31.3 31.4 18.0 18.4 -
The Extent of Globalization (exports/GDP) (Source: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/)

In recent decades, the export/GDP ratio has generally risen, both worldwide and for the U.S. economy. Interestingly, the share of U.S. exports in proportion to the U.S. economy is well below the global average, in part because large economies like the United States can contain more of the division of labor inside their national borders. However, smaller economies like Belgium, Korea, and Canada need to trade across their borders with other countries to take full advantage of division of labor, specialization, and economies of scale. In this sense, the enormous U.S. economy is less affected by globalization than most other countries.

Table indicates that many medium and low income countries around the world, like Mexico and China, have also experienced a surge of globalization in recent decades. If an astronaut in orbit could put on special glasses that make all economic transactions visible as brightly colored lines and look down at Earth, the astronaut would see the planet covered with connections.

Despite the rise in globalization over the last few decades, in recent years we've seen significant pushback against globalization from people across the world concerned about loss of jobs, loss of political sovereignty, and increased economic inequality. Prominent examples of this pushback include the 2016 vote in Great Britain to exit the European Union (i.e. Brexit), and the election of Donald J. Trump for President of the United States.

Hopefully, you now have an idea about economics. Before you move to any other chapter of study, be sure to read the very important appendix to this chapter called The Use of Mathematics in Principles of Economics. It is essential that you learn more about how to read and use models in economics.

Decisions ... Decisions in the Social Media Age

The world we live in today provides nearly instant access to a wealth of information. Consider that as recently as the late 1970s, the Farmer’s Almanac, along with the Weather Bureau of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were the primary sources American farmers used to determine when to plant and harvest their crops. Today, farmers are more likely to access, online, weather forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or watch the Weather Channel. After all, knowing the upcoming forecast could drive when to harvest crops. Consequently, knowing the upcoming weather could change the amount of crop harvested.

Some relatively new information forums, such as Facebook, are rapidly changing how information is distributed; hence, influencing decision making. In 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that 71% of online adults use Facebook. This social media forum posts topics ranging from the National Basketball Association, to celebrity singers and performers, to farmers.

Information helps us make decisions as simple as what to wear today to how many reporters the media should send to cover a crash. Each of these decisions is an economic decision. After all, resources are scarce. If the media send ten reporters to cover an accident, they are not available to cover other stories or complete other tasks. Information provides the necessary knowledge to make the best possible decisions on how to utilize scarce resources. Welcome to the world of economics!