More than a decade ago, the global confrontation between the West and the East ended with a convincing victory of the liberal paradigm. That ideological triumph of the Western political and economic concept was so pervasive then that some argued mankind had reached the "end of history."
By now, we know this was a rash assumption, as new clashes have replaced the old lines of conflict. Here, I am not referring to the "clash of civilizations" and the US-inspired confrontation between the coalition of the willing and the various rogues assembled in the "axis of evil," but the widening row between the foes and supporters of globalization.
While technological and economic developments make it appear unlikely that globalization could be halted altogether, political intervention by governments and other actors may well curtail the speed and the extent to which the economies of the world merge. How and when this will happen has basically become a political question, and in recent years has also increasingly become ideological.
Listening to debates between supporters and opponents of globalization, one notices a clear dividing line. The pro-side says that the market and free trade are beneficial for all and the key to the solution of many problems besetting the world. Contrary to this optimism, the anti-globalization camp sees the market as the cause of many problems besetting the world and the source of much injustice.
Interestingly, the anti-globalization activists have won the contest for the minds and hearts of many people in most countries.
Ironically, their global publicity and networking campaigns rely on communication tools that are a by-product of the very world-order they are trying to get rid of.
In spite of public perceptions, a growing body of empirical data indicates that the basic assumptions of the anti-globalization camp are false. The numbers are published in the Economic Freedom Index, an annual compilation of statistics representing factors which make a country economically free.
The report ranks 123 nations representing 91 percent of the world population and clearly supports the assertion that there exists a correlation between the degree of economic freedom and development.
"The more economic freedom a country has, the more economic growth is recorded," says Michael Walker of the Canada-based Fraser Institute, who developed the Index together with other liberal economists, among them Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.
The index measures the degree of economic freedom in five distinct areas: size of government, legal structure and property rights, access to sound money, freedom of exchange with foreigners and lastly regulation of credit, labor and business.
The countries at the top of the index are also the richest nations, while the poorest countries in the world find themselves listed at the bottom of the ratings. In this year's report, two East Asian economies once more topped the list, Hong Kong and Singapore -- followed by the US, the UK, New Zealand, Switzerland and Ireland.
The rankings of other Asian countries are as follows: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan jointly ranked 26th, Thailand (ranked 44), the Philippines (51), Malaysia (60), Sri Lanka (64), India (73), Bangladesh and Indonesia (91), China (100) and Myanmar ranked 123, the last place in the table.