Globalization and the Midwest

It probably takes the editor of a Midwestern newspaper to get away with saying something like this about Midwestern newspaper people:

I’ve got a staff here of really smart newspaper people and almost none of them have probably been outside the United States. I’ve got to name one of them the foreign editor, and that person is going to have to edit the AP foreign wire, and there’s nobody here with the world view, the international sophistication, to take that wire and turn it into something meaningful for my readers.

The passage comes from an interview/profile of Richard Longworth linked to by the Switchblog, which had this to add:

[T]he challenge, of course, is that being so disconnected from global events, these communities don’t know what they’re missing, and don’t understand the negative impact of what they’re missing.

I don’t have a lot to add about the challenges globalization poses to the American rustbelt, since I’m not much of an economist. But what struck me, if the story’s characterization of the dearth of international analysis in Midwestern papers is true, was the way in which those parts of America most harmed by globalization, just like those places around the world that are most harmed by globalization, have the least access to information about it.

Whether it’s a factory worker in China or a factory worker in Illinois, globalization is just something that happens, mysteriously, through the agency of unknown forces. One gets locked into a factory that’s just opened, the other gets locked out of one that’s just closed down, but neither really understands why. The difference, of course, being that a factory worker in Illinois could probably inform him or herself a lot more easily than one in China. But that shared element of powerlessness in the face of unseen forces seems eery.

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