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Culture Wars Answers/Discussion
1. Many Italians were opposed to McDonald's opening up franchises in their country. They saw it as a kind of cultural invasion -- a kind of insult to their tradition of fine food. Some Italians wanted their government to prohibit McDonald's from operating in Italy. Today there are 300 franchises in Italy, but the controversy continues. See http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/mcdonalds060503.cfm for an amusing story.
A better example of cultural values spreading through commerce -- and sometimes being resisted -- is the international marketing of American films. The American film industry is a powerful force in Globalization. As Benjamin R. Barber put it in Jihad vs. McWorld:
As with other contributing elements to the culture of McWorld, movies and videos are ever more unitary in content as they become ever more global in distribution. More and more people around the world watch films that are less and less varied. Nowhere is American monoculture more evident or more feared than in its movies and videos.
Since most developed countries do not have laws that absolutely prohibit all foreign companies from opening businesses or selling products within their borders, the issue of cultural invasions is one that populations at large have become sensitive to. Resistance, in these cases, is in the form of consumer activism.
2. We will not decide the issue for you, but consider the following example. When the U.S. Congress had to consider whether or not to grant PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) with China, it asked for the opinion of Dr. Michael Santaro, who had studied the effect of trade and business on instilling positive moral and political values. Among the arguments he presented:
The case for granting PNTR to China is I think a simple and compelling one. The greatest human rights impact that the United States can have on China will come through trade and investment. Multinational corporations, particularly those based in the United States are influencing four sets of factors-economic prosperity, merit-based hiring practices, information-sharing and teamwork, and leadership and change-that are positively related to democracy and human rights. In my book I call this phenomenon "human rights spin-off." By granting PNTR to China, the United States will accelerate "human rights spin-off," fuel the dramatic social changes taking place in China, and thereby hasten the day that democracy and human rights can flourish in China.
For the full text see http://www.senate.gov/~finance/3-23sant.htm. Also see Santaro's book Profits and Principles: Global Capitalism and Human Rights in China (Cornell University Press, 2000).